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.

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passage of grief



Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke./Tonight at last I feel it shake.

-from Samhain Annie Finch

In the poem above, Annie Finch describes the thinning veil of space/time through which ancestors can make passage during rare nights of the year. As Autumn ripens, we become more aware of the winter coming and the weight of that cold on the other side of this season. We just left summer, head towards winter. Leaves change and trees are stripped bare. We are in transition. In the prison across the past few weeks, we have all felt this. It creates tension and, sometimes, sorrow.

Our theme this past week was histories–familial and ancestral. We used the frame of this thinning veil of Samhain or Halloween to offer the opportunity to speak to those relationships that have passed or changed: mothers, grandmothers, fathers, children, those beyond our reach. When you are in prison, the relationships that are out of reach feel and are enumerable.  Continue reading

starting a conversation

The heart is able to forgive and repair.
It can change its shape to let us in.
It can expand to let us out.

– From I was there in the room Eve Ensler

Over the course of the past three months, we’ve participated in a group conversation on self-acceptance. That means acceptance of everything: bodies, histories, flaws, and beauties. Sometimes to do that, we need something to jar the system, to shock us into knowledge of ourselves that we didn’t know was the there: un-captured by even the imagination, the unknown unknowns.

Last week, I brought in a monologue from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. It seemed like a natural step or an initiation. I would say vagina a bunch of times out loud. We would talk about our bodies with new words, with reverence. We would know ourselves in a new way. Or we would at least try it out.

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veins of gold

Japanese bowlWhen the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.
– Barbara Bloom

Gold-fill utilized to mend and restore valuable pieces of Japanese artwork (Kintsugi) is a powerful metaphor for incarcerated women.

They view themselves as broken, cracked, and sometimes even shattered, uncertain about the possibilities for repair.

This week’s writing circle was particularly poignant as three veteran writers returned to the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility after unsuccessful attempts at living in their home communities.  Continue reading