getting home


It always seems impossible until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela

We learn, grow and become compassionate and generous as much through exile as homecoming, as much through loss as gain, as much through giving things away as in receiving what we believe to be our due.  – David Whyte

As we continue to explore closeness of the personal and political, we discussed the efforts to find home that is safe and loving to us. I focus this week’s post on our group’s writing. Below, you will read four different visions of home – those made, those lost, and those held in memory as each of us struggle to make a home in ourselves or return to the homes we love.


My mom once asked me, “Have you ever felt homesick even when you’re in your own home?” –Yes. “Home” is not where you live. It is not four walls that you pay taxes on and costs you a certain number of zeros. “Home” is that unique touch you add to your space no matter where yo go. “Home” is that familiar scent that clears your mind, that makes your eyes slide shut–the scent you don’t want to exhale because you might lose it. “Home” is that color the crayon experts don’t put in the box because there’s no word to describe it. It’s the place you see in your mind when you reminisce about the happy times in your childhood. Spring cleaning at mom’s; after dinner cookies with Grandma, cooking in the kitchen; Papa’s stale cigarette smoke from a long night up with the bills; the after-school snack with the kids as you listen – again – to how math sucks and recess is too short.




Home, something remembers long ago, memories in time where mother tucked her babes into their beds, softly kiss their little heads. Seeming every night there innocence shines the brightest while they’re at their quietest. Home feels like memories so bold so warm and loving, the most true love and peace she has known. Home always longing for even though she feels like her reaching is never ending.
Home has become a vision now instead of reality. So sad to see a mother so strong and loving feel clipped of happiness. So little could ever replace their sweet admiring faces, forever frozen in memory’s traces. Home, something remembered long ago, darkness tries to fold her in and take control trying to win. She finds herself some days wanting the end. No more tears of lost time. No more loneliness that embarasses. No desperation for love. What is home when there is no home to go to. What is home when there’s no love to fill it. What is home when there’s too many reasons not to return.

What is home, she dreams and dreams, but wakes up in the same concrete walls, slamming doors, cold, lonely, floors. What is home is memories and dreams. Home is long ago before dreaming had to be her only comforting reality.

So off to her dream, mother slips eyes now closed. There her son’s asleep in their beds. She leans down and kisses their heads. She can almost smell that smell only mother/sons share. Always in every dream, she yearns to never wake up, just to finally be home again.



I know what a home should be, what it could become. I would have to say that the picturesque, white picket fence, perfect pretty little yard just never existed in my world. It never will. The dark child never gets their dream. There was no fence that kept the bad guys out, instead there were bars that kept me in. No perfect family, just a tattered heart, and a beat up soul. No little yard to play…just one room. The room consumed anything good and spit it out the window. No home cooked meals to eat. Just a needle and spoon that fed my hunger. Survival became little baggies and pills that rocked me to sleep at night. There was no love lost and I never found love; the world shook with vengeance and I didn’t even care. No one noticed that I slipped away, no one noticed I was gone. I can’t say I blamed them. Time ticked and days passed. How many, I couldn’t say. My home is darkness. I prefer it here. I like the company I keep. They never say much and they haven’t left me…They tell me they won’t. If you toss me out, they’ll follow me down. That’s more than I can say for anything else. Home is 100 cc’s of magic. It’s a disappearing act, you see. The act of a century. Home is where you will never find me.



If they crave you
that doesn’t mean they love you.
Trust me, it’s lust.
They just want to get in bed with you.
Keep your walls up.
Don’t let that wall built up by betrayal, decayed like ashes.
Don’t me him in.
Be strong, give them what they want.
Not the emotional piece.
Break their hearts.
Walk all over them in high-heeled boots
until they walk away,
broken and betrayed.
You sure showed them how the game is played.
That ain’t me.
Been there, done that.
It brings nothing but pain and regret.
Not all men are responsible
for the one who betrayed you and broke your hearts.
Brokenness turns you bitter, even cold as stone!
Odds are there are good people in this world
waiting to meet you
so like a never-ending carousel,
I’ll forgive you and forget the past
so I can be happy and make it last.


the dance


 “I hope you will go out and let stories  happen to you, and that you will work them,  water them with your blood and tears and  you laughter till they bloom, till you yourself  burst into bloom.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This summer, we’ve focused our attention  on the story of “The Red Shoes” as told by  author Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The story follows the protagonist, an impoverished, spritely, instinct-injured girl, through the dervish of her desires to a uncertain end. The story teaches about what happens when we allow the object of our desires to dance us rather than the other way around. This led to many far-reaching discussions concerning what we’ve let lead us throughout our lives and how we’ve found our instincts to lead our own dances again.

In the pieces below, drawn from two different sessions discussing the story, you’ll find a myriad of reflections on the story and what madnesses and sanity we’ve reached in the turns of our own stories.


If I took your hand and asked you to dance
would you follow me through it all?
If the steps to our song just took us along
to the edge of the world and we fall…
Could you pull be in closer and learn to take over?

We’d make it our own, this edge of
destruction and teeter on it back and forth.
One step closer and you know it’s all over
but you’d at least be there on the course.
No one could stop the music that trances
our eyes make the dances.
Every move that we make assures
our fate and takes me straight to your heart.
A metronome beat, a touch more than
sweet electrifies the air around
our dance is our own, we take all
night long to get lost in the steps
that take us to our own exile.



“But at last the child’s feet were calmed.”
“Stay here long enough to make the finish line.”

I always wondered what it would take. Nothing ever seemed enough to still the force within you, nothing was enough to calm your feet. For years, the dance was fierce and exhausting. I couldn’t keep up. I never learned the stops when I should have. I did watch though. They ended being committed to memory a little better than I expected, but we’ll get to that in a minute. You kept rehearsing, kept us all on the edge of our seats. I tried to follow it, there was just so much I couldn’t understand. I didn’t know that this would be the last dance. There would be no crossing of the finish line. You just didn’t stay. You couldn’t stay. It was in my pain and darkness that all of those steps danced right into me and took over. The magic was in the shoes right? Yours wore out, mine were brand new and boy did they fit just right. Unsteady to begin but my gait improved quickly and I needed no help. You left me but I kept dancing. I hate dancing. It wasn’t as fun as it looked and now my feet hurt. You never told me how to calm my feet. You never told me I’d get tired. You never told me that you were letting go. Now I sit here, dancing a dance that means nothing and lead me right into a cage. What kind of stage is this anyway? I don’t want to but I think it’s time to tell you that you were wrong. I blame myself for being too much like you.

I blame myself for following your steps, for wearing the god damned shoes and dancing the dance that should never be. I loved you all along. I love you still. Until I can cross the finish line, I won’t dance again. Except this time the dance will be mine. The dance will be the one that should be.




I had become unconscious of the starvation.
No matter how much I had lost
there I was attempting the same preparations.
My life was all it had cost.
Was it the denial of what I was or who?
They say crazy is doing the same thing over
and over expecting results of new
but my entire life was focused on fixing
the craving.
As a mother, I had been decommissioned.
As a daughter, I had been discarded.
As a girlfriend, replaced for a better edition.
As a person, I didn’t know where my beginning started.
My mind stuck on repeat,
why won’t the ending change?
Once my high hits me the mission is complete
but when I’m sick, I am deranged.
I think the world is in the dark.
No one knows I’m high.
My life flashes and my eyes go dark.
3 tubes of Narcan, did I just die?
Insanity calls, she ruined your buzz.
She should’ve let you go a little more,
to scared of the fuzz…
No, you almost lost your life.
Still, you chase the high.
Her cries haunt your ears.
You’re good,you’ve been doing this for years…

Insanity is…
someone died on the news today again.




I don’t usually keep still. One step
at a time, I get lost in the steps.

Even if I am big and strong,
a beautiful gift, dancing at the edge,

it’s pretty easy, really. Even
my eyes do the dances

while I am asleep, getting
the news from my dreams.

and the electrified air around me.
1,2,3, 1,2,3 1,2,3

in the rain and snow and sunshine,
I leap, legs determined.

I’d hoped one day to find someone
to sweep me off my feet,

to find one person in this world who loved me.
I forgot, it’s me: a woman making moves unrestrictedly.
Everymove we make assures our fate
and takes us straight to the heart.

There are no strings on me.


gemini ink conference

“Gemini Ink believes in the vital role creative writing can play in an individual’s life and personal development. Our writing classes are open to everyone. Whether the last thing you wrote was a poem in high school or you are a published emerging author, we provide a warm supportive writing community and the opportunity to develop your skills.” – from the geminiink website

Over the weekend of July 21-23rd, we were lucky to head to San Antonio, TX to present a panel on our shared work at writinginsideVT. To prepare for the conference and to ensure that all the writers of writinginside were heard the panel, while inside with our writers, we wrote a shared letter to the panel at geminiink. Below, you will read the exchange between the panel and our writing circle. First is the letter to the panel and last are the notes each audience member wrote in reply. As a side note, I shared the notes from the audience with our writing  circle this week and they were thrilled to hear the well of support they received from the audience at Geminiink. Thank you, Geminiink, for the opportunity to share our work and words with San Antonio!

writinginsideVT writers to the panel: 

To Whom It May Concern: this group has given me a way to relive some of my most darkest feelings through a healthy way. It has helped make a significant difference in my life. I no longer cut myself as a way to relieve stress. So poetry and this class has offered me a positive outlet!

My experience: being incarcerated, I am confined. Constantly controlled. Always being told what to do. Forever wearing a porcelain mask painted with a fake smile on it. Not able to be myself. Being treated like a rabid, caged animal.

During writing inside, I am a woman. I am a mother, a free-spirit. I have views and opinions that I can freely express without fear of judgment or reprimand. During writing inside, I am me. I can be myself and wear a true smile on my face.

How I grew from this circle: My experience has helped me to grow because without writing my feelings out the way I’ve learned, I would cut someone so deep with my tongue.

I really like this group because they let us pass or write to make us feel good. My skills have opened up more. It makes me happy and feel good about myself and others and it lets me open up to others.

Being a participant is freeing – all day we are controlled, told what to do, and when to do it. We don’t have the freedom of self-expression, no say is what we wear, what we eat, when we sleep or how we spend our time. Having this writing group allows us the freedom we so crave. No limits, no hesitations, no rules, no bars holding us back. It’s like taking a breath of fresh air from the outside. No fence holding us in or back. It’s a vacation and a break from the ever-pending doom and darkness of being imprisoned. My mind and words are freedom in a caged world.

Geminiink Panel Audience to writinginsideVT:

Thank you for sharing your words and life/lives through your book and the geminiink Conference. Our neighborhood in San Antonio has members in prison who are part of our families so we know a little of what you go through. Hope and Peace, Esperanza y Paz, Kamala

Dearest Writers,
Thank you for sharing your dreams, your pain, and your incredible words. Your insight about life and being human reminds me that out of challenges comes precious gems. Keep healing and writing, Linda

Dear Writers,
You are – each and every one of you – an inspiration. It can be difficult to create on the outside but you all are facing the greater challenge of creating on the inside and are more than rising to the occasion. Please know that you and your writing are valued and you have writers cheering you on with each and every poem and story you commit to the page. Read. Write. Read and write more. Good things will come to you and those you love. Be strong. Be Curious. Have faith in the process of writing.

To the women in the group-fellow writers, Thank you for your words. I listened and your words were so eloquent and they touched my mind and my heart.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and wisdom. Your have words have changed me.

For the women and writers – your words are beautiful. They move me. Never stop.

Thank you for your words. Remember, you are not the worst thing that you have done. Keep hope.

Thank you from a writer in Texas. I value your writing and the writing that was shared with us in San Antonio.

Dear Incarcerated Women and Writers,
“Even caged birds sing.” – Maya Angelou – Keep your stories and teach the world.

Thank you so much for trusting us and sharing your work with us. Very moving. – Chuck E.

Ladies and writers, thank you for sharing your work, feelings, and talent. Wishing you all the best of luck on your journey. Also sending you all endless amounts of love.

To the writers: I congratulate you for showing up for yourself and attending this empowering group. May this type of writing reveal to you how you truly are: free to be strong, courageous, and truthful enough to overcome all your challenges. May this group quiet your doubt and give voice to your self-trust.

Ladies, I have been where you are before. I support what you are doing within your writing. I hear the social injustices that you are living through. You have support on the outside. I believe in you, and so many in the county know in some cases you’re in here and completely innocent. Love from San Antonio, TX. xoxo!


patching ourselves up

deviant art

“A woman’s passionate and creative nature is at risk if she cannot hold onto her sources of growth and joy.”

“Once there was a poor motherless child who had no shoes. But the child saved cloth scraps wherever she found them and over time sewed herself a pair of red shoes. They were crude but she loved them. They made her feel rich even though her days were spent gathering food in the thorny woods until far past dark.” From “The Red Shoes” as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with Wolves

Every summer, we bring a folktale in the group. We run programming halftime so we take the opportunity to delve deeply into a single story, explore its symbolism, and use our writing to find each of the characters in ourselves. This year, we’re focused on “The Red Shoes” – a story about a girl who, after being taken in by a wealthy older woman, losses track of who she is only to try and fail to find herself in a pair of dangerous red shoes. The story explores themes such as the loss of soul, temptation, restriction, and recovery. These themes are familiar to our poetry and our circle. Discussion flowed easily about the traps of other people’s opinions, the soul-losses we’ve suffered, and the desires we harbor that nourish us and those that don’t.

In the pieces below, you’ll see pleas for freedom and loving prayers. The dance they are doing is not easy or without grace.


I find it narrow-minded that, generally speaking, my family, as well as society as a whole, expects me to live my life a certain way.

I pretend that I no longer take part in certain activities – one’s that others consider reckless, dangerous, irresponsible. Yet, I find them exhilarating, entertaining, and fulfilling. I generally work 40-50 hours a week attempting to display that I am mature, dependable, and responsible, when really I desire to be at the lake or on a mountain top with my family with a care in the world.

Spontaneously, acting on my wants is what I hunger for. No rules. No boundaries. No limits. Freedom. Not having my medicine on account of my doctor saying it’s necessary. Paying my phone bill three days later than is dated on my bill. Lighting up another cigarette although the surgeon general advises I don’t. Going home when it gets dark because that is what most people do. I desire to do things my way, on my own time. Because I chose what is best for me, not others.

No rules. No boundaries. No limits. Freedom!



My name is nobody.
I am queen of all fallen angels,
lover of all the forsaken souls.
Silent screams are buried beneath their smiles.
Don’t worry, you no longer have to hide in the shadows.
Come out, come out.
Be your true self.
Don’t be afraid of the monsters under your bed.
They’re really you friends.
Get along with the voices inside your head.
Don’t fight the demon within you.
It’s a part of you.
You no longer have to be alone
because I love you.
You no longer have to bleed alone –
two bodies, one soul.
I will take care of you.

A secret fire began to burn in their hearts
and the truth set them free,
free to be who they are,
who they want to be.


give us a song


Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. – Maya Angelou

Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue. – Plato

This week, we departed from our usual work and focused our attention on song writing. When anyone works long enough on one artistic medium, in this case poetry, a certain freshness in the work can be achieved when the artist practices another form. This is the case here. We listened to music together, discussed different songwriting forms, and challenged ourselves to write in that form. The work that came from this was potent and surprising, some of the strongest the writers have made in some time. It’s as though they have been practicing and practicing in the same way with the same diligence and potential and this new form opened up possibilities in their work that they didn’t know what there.

This happens for many artists – something new and out of their control moves into their realm of experience, their consciousness, and changes the way they do their work. In the pieces below, you will read what happens when well-practiced writers ride the energy of something new. It makes magic.


This year was the first celebrated Memorial Day that my Grandpa and Grandma were buried in the same spot.

Every year my aunts and uncles would plant flowers at my Grandpa’s grave.

This year they decided to also sprinkle tobacco and pecans on the grave for my grandma.

I still have her old, classy jewelry and antique gloves that I wear with pride.

I also have a spoon you can use for root beer floats with a straw on it.

I miss you a lot Grandma B.

You always told me that if boys came around to hit ‘em with a baseball bat. You ornery presence will be missed.

Try not to smoke a cigarette with your oxygen tank and blow up heaven.

When we reunite we can have all the root beer floats and pecan pie and watch CSPAN.

See you in Paradise.
RIP Verna Barwin August 7, 2015


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