bitter twisted lies

Bitter & Twisted (album)

This piece about lies is hard to read. Consider yourself forewarned.

It is also – most unfortunately –  not atypical of the kind of heart wrenching history that propels many women into prison. While the specifics shift in kaleidoscopic variation, the fundamental pieces can sound searingly similar: absence of basic safety, protection and nurture in early years; lifestyles that lead to early independence without healthy models or boundaries; the list goes on.

What is hopeful is how, in the course of writing and sharing their words, these women come to understand and accept how the past played out. They develop determination for living differently going forward. This is the true kernel of why we do this work of writing inside with Vermont’s incarcerated women.

Lies, Lies and More Lies

With your bitter, twisted lies
I stay and await a darkness that’s unknown.
We first met on a bright lit midway
and you told me you’d take care of me.
That was your first lie.
You brought me to a traphouse filled
with every addict ever known.

Your second lie was you loved me,
couldn’t live without me.
You loved me so much you wanted
to pass that love among all your friends. Continue reading

don’t ever try leaving again

addiction portrayed

courtesy howstuffworks

Chilling words, those. Perhaps spoken by one abusive partner to another, an overly controlling parent. In anger, under the influence, with or without weapon in hand. The end of the rope, the line, the good times. One can conjure up a number of scenarios in which ‘don’t EVER try leaving again‘ might arise; all of them insinuate threat or worse. None sounds good.

Last night by a woman recently re-incarcerated penned a compelling love letter to the one who has a hold on her that has all but destroyed her life, when all she needs is to let go . . . of a painful, literally life-threatening addiction.

Holding on to you, when I need to just let go . . .

You chase my thoughts, a puppy nipping at the ankle of each free being, of thought, of memory. You’re always here with me, your image tattooed in my brain, my ever-slowing heart . . .

I hold you close, dear, to me; you permeate every molecule, every cell, every nucleus, every mitochondria; everything chants your name . . .

I close my eyes and only feel blood, still pulsing red heat, through my damaged, scarred  being, still standing, despite the abuse I’ve put them through, what I’ve put you through just to survive because I can’t keep you, my life fails to exist . Holding your hand as I drift to eternal slumber, finally surrendering to the overdose, the fatal stop to my madness, the imminent end of my pointless life. Still holding on, but needing to let you go. I want to choose survival . . . Continue reading

the sometimes fictional me

becomingyourself2Two weeks back, we wrote about our perceived imperfections, based on the poem of the same name by Elizabeth Carlson. Her opening line is “I’m learning to fall in love with my imperfections,” which set the stage for writing about how each woman’s perceptions of and feelings about herself have shifted over time. While many women chose to write directly from the poem, even incorporating specific lines or concepts from the poem, others used the ideas as a jumping off point for writing that might have gone in a different direction.

The interesting thing about the weekly practice of creating a ‘found poem’ from the lines written in group is putting these disparate and often unrelated writings into one coherent context. It is a challenge. It is also a delight for the women to hear their own words mingling with one another’s in unexpected ways. As often happens, this particular poem elicited squeals of delight as women recognized their own phrases and leaned into a new interpretation of them as a communal effort.


I don’t think I could have wished my life as me,
let my needs be trampled by my need for equanimity,
in love with people who abused me,
the empty pit in my heart
suppressing my spirit –
a girl who didn’t know how to ask for help,
for freedom from jail, DOC, snow, oppressive heat.

Reality is impermanence,
something missing in my life.
I have lost my family.
I used to be quiet,
knew what to say and when
as if in perfect command.
Now I am lonely and insecure
not who I used to know, but who I know now. Continue reading