signaling through flames



To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment. – Galway Kinnell

Poetry meets us where we are without expecting us to move on before we are ready. – Lisa Rosman

What are poets for, in such an age?/What is the use of poetry?/The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it. – From “Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

We closed national poetry month with a night set aside for self-advocacy. There exists an antiquated tradition in poetry to stay out of politics but most poets and the poets on the inside understand poetry as an essential tool for political discourse. In the pieces below, you’ll read the perspectives of those on the inside on the personal, the political, and how the two cross over in their experience at CRCF.


I ran most of the way.
Checking the mail, my job every day.
I don’t really know my mom.
All I’m sure about
when she’s around my papa might shout.
Meeme is never calmed down
but when I dream of mom she wears a crown.
She the queen of my life
and I love her from the stars to the ground.
She carried me in her belly (but that was pretty much it)
showed me how to make PB + Jelly (even though I usually wore it.)
She never really stayed for too long.
It usually always seemed like there was something wrong.
My sisters always with her then, less and less.
I started to notice she didn’t look her best.
Mommy, why is your hand always bruised and blue?
I hadn’t seen her in over a month when I saw the news.
Papa tried to cover it up with a corny song.
When I watched it all along.
What’s heroin Meeme? And why did mom sweep it?
Her answer was NOTHING through teeth she grit.
Mommy was sick and needs to get well,
not really her body but her judgment went to hell.
She’s gone to time out for two years or so.
She might stay for five but who really knows?
My mommy still loves me, rain, shine, or snow?
I draw her pictures and write at least once a week.
I even sent her my report card because my grades are on FLEEK.
Our relationship now is better than ever



changing light

credit - wolfepaw

credit – wolfepaw

Last week we continued our theme of National Poetry Month, learning more about the Beat poets. We read several poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Given the choices to write to a theme of protest or create their own ‘Changing Light’ poem, most of the dozen or so women gathered around the circle opted for light.

As always, it is a heart-thumping experience to sit with these women at various stages of incarceration, to hear their words spoken in their own voices and then reflected back through the ears of the rest. So many ways to think of light, something precious and sacred behind windowless walls. And here in Vermont, the spring is especially slow to come. April can still bring snow atop the softening mud. It takes a couple of weeks of rain and more warmth than we’ve had yet to live up to our billing as Green Mountain state.

But get there we do! Thanks in part to days like we had last week just prior to our gathering time. Read a sampling of the writing from that night and be transported into the light as filtered through the eyes of some of Vermont’s incarcerated women:


The changing light
inside my son’s blue eyes
is the most beautiful light I‘ve ever seen.

His morning light of sleepy seeds
and yawns of his fascinating dreams
of the night before.

The light in my son’s blue eyes
is different shades of blue; the ocean
roars with waves of light every time
he blinks. Continue reading