cassandra1In modern usage, ‘a Cassandra’ is someone whose accurate prophecies are not believed by those around them, thanks to the curse the god Apollo put on her gift of prophecy as revenge for her broken promise to him; or perhaps because she went mad by virtue of her incarceration by her father the king. Thus no one believed her foretelling of the attack on Troy – and look how that ended!

We all have times in our lives when we feel that our shouted warnings fall on deaf ears. We have experienced the ‘deja vu’ moments that cause us to cringe with recognition of our own precognition. And we often feel trapped, whether by an institution or history or our own interpretations.

In last week’s writing group inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, the common thread that pulls us all through such times is a shared belief in the power of voice. This proved but a  modest foretelling of the power of millions of voices raised two days later, both across this country and beyond, in support of those whose voices continue to be threatened by institutions of power. Inside prison and out in capitol cities of the world, throngs demonstrated with we showed through our words: belief in the power of one voice to save others. Magnified. Cassandra’s no longer, our voices shall be believed for the truths they carry.

As always, the writings around the table were intense, unique and powerful, ranging from immediate worry for a loved one to an historical sense of ‘otherness’ to scathing political satire. Taking several lines from each of the more than a dozen writers gathered, this ‘found poem’ focuses it all in one place:


One voice can save others’ lives,
entertain the imagination
or set sail to loved ones long passed;
pray for hope, strength, wisdom, will, forgiveness
for the pain from these years trapped inside,
the whole mad scene holding my anger
a bumper crop of lies
creating this chaos around me –
not much for common ground –
and such dismay toward others
I am a curse, bring disaster.

Every woman is Cassandra
taught to put the fire out,
a lady who keeps things inside
hooked in the stones of shame.

We’ve amended the amendments
til they’re falling apart
starved for truth that never shines,
our future in danger.

What people believe matters  –
the meaning of mental freedom,
the blur of the light
where my thoughts should be,
solid walls between us…

One voice can be magic, reveal the crust of truth
gnawed by a starving man.
People who leave here could be that voice.

You can’t take my soul;
not another tear drop falls on your name.
What do I do with my emotions?
Make ripples before me
earth trembling at my soft touch,
our voices out of control volcanoes
to help us change the system.

We have learned that resentment is
the scaffold on which to hang action.
Fire’s light illuminates truth,
its heat forces action.

One voice can change others’ lives.
People who leave here could be that voice.
I have a voice you never heard.

I believe in myself.

. . . and you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s