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. Continue reading

what we can do

tiny plant

You gotta mature, you know. – The Notorious B.I.G.

Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? – Bob Marley

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. – Mahatma Gandhi

The more time you spend contemplating what you should have done… you lose valuable time planning what you can and will do. – Lil Wayne

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,/or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,/ but because it never forgot what it could do. – Naomi Shihab Nye, from the poem “Famous”

We’re often told that there’s so much left to do. We take action, plan, do all day. We have to make time to slow down and think. Sometimes that that is what vacations are for – to open spaces to help us think through what needs doing, saying. It’s the time we leave for ourselves to be for a bit rather than running around taken action constantly. And In the prison, the writers don’t escape the frenetic pace at which we on the outside live our lives.

And if this pace is problematic for each inmate, it’s not just because they live at that pace but because those that control their lives live against the clock. CRCF has programs and volunteer organizations in the prison on a daily basis working to rehabilitate the inmates. But there are real demands on the time of each inmate and each person working at the prison which limits the help each inmate can get.

Continue reading