sizzling summer words

hugged by words

credit – edrissis

Like the rest of the Northeast, this past week in Vermont has been a sizzler. Nowhere has it been worse than inside the prison, with its few fans and close quarters. Despite brutal heat and humidity – with their attendant effects of slowing everyone down to a near-halt – we met at mid-week’s height of the heat with a dozen dedicated women.

Our theme? The power of our words. To ‘pull us from the depths of unknowing,’ as a line from Denise Levertov’s opening poem says. Words that fly with urgency or open like flowers. Words that hold us back or propel us forward.

Although each woman’s writing was different, arranging lines from each woman into a poem speaks to the universal experience of our lives. Heat or no heat!

How Much I’ve Grown, Given, Lost

I pushed aside something that mattered
when I left —
wonder if I’m on the right track,
afraid of not ‘getting it,’ over-thinking,
not measuring up to other people,
scared to make moves or changes.
Anxiety stops my imagination. Continue reading

the miracle of winged stars

English: Pictured here is a long exposure phot...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

While we always write about current and meaningful topics that are near to the life experience and yearning hearts of circle participants, from time to time we challenge them with a more ‘writerly’ task. Such was the case this past week. In addition to writing about animals  each woman might identify with [see Jan. 10 post], we challenged them to write something using the following six nouns and six verbs: miracle, wings, night, stars, angels, cave, outlast, desire, arrive, imagine, open and sing.

They were allowed to change the form of any given word, and to add as many other words as they wished. What impressed me was the variety of ways in which the same 12 words could be gathered together in a mere five minutes. Read the samples shared below and let us know what you think of this exercise!

I imagine outlasting the miracle of winged stars arriving in my cave of night to open wide on angels’ song.  – JP

Open as a cave at night,

my imagination sings
of desire arriving on the wings
of stars, angels bearing
the single miracle
that can outlast time.  – SB

Imagine angels with open wings fluttering down from heaven to arrive at the open mouth of the cave. The stars brightly shining in the night sky sing of our desire for miracles to outlast the earth.
  – TD

I imagine opening to desire; miracles arriving like stars, outlasting the night, singing echoes in a cave carried like winged angels.  –  LS

A cold, dank, musty cave opens . . . merging fluidly with black starless night. Imagine now, if you will, that wings rustle, indicating the arrival of a miracle. An angelic voice sings, brightening that dark corner of earth with a truth that outlasts all time, space, desire and destiny . . .  – TH


Imagine this . . .
a cave at night.
You can’t see the stars.
And you’re protected by angels.
They fly with wings
and even their heart sings.
Let your mind be opened before, in real life, they arrive.
The miracle of these images will outlast all of our desires.

– AA

I am in a cave of miraculous stars. Imagine I have arrived at a place where angels outlast the dark night’s desires, and open their morning wings to sing again.   – JP

hope during advent

Credit: marian solidarity

Credit: marian solidarity

Last night, in keeping with the first week of Advent, we wrote to the theme of hope. What made this writing challenging – and  to the amazement of the women around the circle, rewarding – was the second part. After a 20 minute free-write, each woman took an additional 10 minutes to transform her words into a poem. We used the pantoum, an accessible repeating pattern based on 8 distinct lines which women selected from the ‘strongest’ in their original writing.

The resulting poems spoke raw power, profound clarity and deep pain. Read both the original and poetic versions from TH, one of our newer writers. She sinks directly into experience, dredging up the immediacy of her pain and struggle for hope using the analogy of drug use. It took my breath away. But you decide for yourself!

‘Please try your call again later.’ Sighing, I hang the plastic black receiver up and continue staring at the numbers on the keypad. You never seem to be on the other end anymore . . .  The guard hands out stacks of cards and letters. As usual, I receive nothing.

I am here.



Buried in pain.

My mind turns the corner of loneliness, extracting hope as if with a tiny syringe, sucking it in off its home in my soul and injecting it into my current state, bright red, pungent, stinging my veins. It hurts to hope because you never come. You never answer. You never write.

And yet, I magically produce more, even now, as snow lightly decorates the ground; even as December marches on in pageantry and decoration. You are mine and I am yours. We always say we are family, and family NEVER LEAVES family!

But you’re gone. Continue reading