“We open/ a persimmon seed to find the tree/that stands in promise,/pale in the seed’s marrow.” from ‘The Wild Geese’ by Wendell Berry
With an underlying theme arising from the above epigraph – ‘the promise in the seed’ – we opened last week’s group to a couple of new ideas. First, we had about 15 minutes of pure socializing time before getting down to write. This was a request in response to the challenge of maintaining silent focus on the writing for an entire group. Our second novelty was incorporating a celebration into our circle time, complete with fresh oranges, popcorn and punch. Again, in response to a direct request the week before. After all, we were coming into prison to write between Christmas and New Year’s – a time we usually take off. So it felt particularly important to incorporate the wishes and needs of our writers.
To blend the themes of fruit and seed, we opened with an excerpt from Li Young-Lee’s lengthy and multi-layered poem, “Persimmons.” Writing prompted by lines from the poem sprouted in many directions, from darkest despair to fondest memories to in-the-moment sensory instructions for peeling an orange. Some of these writings appear below for you to read. While it is not possible to share every writing on this site, we hope this sampling gives you a taste of the variety, depth and immediacy of our writers’ expressiveness. Who knows – their words may seed something in you as you read. Do let us know what moved you by leaving a comment below!
I gave him the orange
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.
How our lives made us work,
work very hard. For in the end,
your prize will be sweetest orange
that you have ever tasted.
Yes, mistrust, lies and awful people
made us make this hard shell around us
just like orange peel. It’s hard,
untouchable, resistant and protective
over the soft sweet juicy body
that holds so secretly together.
And if not ready to give in, it hisses and sprays.
So do we leave it or love it, as it’s almost the same
as we are. Who will resist such a hard cover model?
I am at times like a persimmon
sitting around wasting my prime
getting sober, ready – ripe so late in the game
definitely not getting any sweeter.
No matter how old I get I’m the same –
I just stay fresh and real.
Some people think I’m mean
but hey, that’s just me – honest.
Been sour this long, why change now?
My life’s still sweet either way.
It’s that 24-karat magic in the air.
Why you mad, fix your face!
I’m surrounded by irrelevant women
still thinking being cute will get them far in life,
knowing damn well they couldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.
I learned a lot from persimmons.
It’s less about outward appearance.
It’s about that glow from within,
that something golden on the inside.
So to those people that know me,
I’m irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind
unconditional love. I’m a rare find
a chocolate diamond in this coal mine.
People that don’t know a persimmon …
would think it’s just another ugly bitter fruit.
Little do they know – there’s a star
shining bright on the inside.
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING I LOST
It is a process, trying to find yourself inside these walls. Because I came here and I didn’t know who I was anymore. Everything that had defined me lived in a place I could no longer go. I was a mother who always played dress-up and 1001 games of Candy Land. I had an income and my own schedule. I was the hostess of Sunday dinners filling my home with friends and family. That was who I am. That was who I woke up and decided to be and I did it every day with all my soul. The consequences of my past didn’t care, they still brought me here. All this time I have felt lost. I was lost from myself. Because I didn’t know how to define myself without actions. Because I had lost the ability to see the forest and the f-ing trees kept getting in my way and pissing me off. Still here. I am right here. Turns out I was never really gone.