remembering outside


I get my best ideas in a thunderstorm. I have the power and majesty of nature on my side. -Ralph Steadman

“We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”
― Andy Goldsworthy

The Horizon Leans
by Maya Angelou

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

There are some weeks where we bring in a prompt everyone writes to it. We say earth and write earth. We say school and write school. We say motherhood, parenthood, and write about kids and memories and caregiving. But there are other weeks when we offer prompts and writers can’t help but address their state of mind, that there is something serious they need to talk about and no prompt is going to reign that in.

In the space below, you will read the accounts of three writers remembering the time before their incarceration – relationship with others, with nature, and with themselves and all each are mutually transformed through contact with one another. These are the stories they needed to tell. Please hear them and the voices they came to the table with.


Forever changing.
Forever changing, we all flow
Day one to 12 thousand.
Never staying the same.
Starting small evolve and grow.
Everything is always changing
from where I stand.
The moon affects everything,
including my ever changing moods.
I lay down.
I’ve found thunderstorms are soothing –
An ancient lullaby we’d forgotten,
The rain splashing against the earth,
replenishing what’s been lost.
I stand there, in the thunder and rain
Everything comes with a cost
Please wash away this pain
When will the clouds open?
Why won’t this storm stop?
How long must this song go on?
What was once soothing?
Now has been overdone.
When will the sunshine come?
The water is getting deep.
I’m in over my head, I try to swim to shore.
I only slam to the floor,
fell off my bed.
Scared and alone, I’ve become impermeable.
I look out the window to reassure my fears,
the sunrise is beautiful.
No need for tears.


Continue reading

writing the body of the world

Creative MagEzine –

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir, American environmentalist


This week we both wrote and drew into the spaces created by what ever came before. The opening poem describes green vines growing into the cracks in the walls made by both love letters and bullet holes. The whole range of human experience however beautiful or violent created space to grow. Through their work as artists and writers, each inmate explored that while they do not wish a repeat of some of their past experiences, they recognize that something else can grown from them.

In the pieces below, you will read an account of these experiences and the writing process each writer engaged in to explore each experience.


It doesn’t matter what came to pass.
More often than not life has put me right on my ass.
There have been times I worked so hard, only to fall harder
like a candle in the wind/trying to withstand the pressure.
A children learning to ride a bicycle/truth be known
You need to fall in order to gain some balance.
Have you ever blown out a candle to relight it?
The flame travels down the smoke to be greater than
the one your breath lost.
I personally believe everything comes with a cost.
We don’t know what kind of pain to anticipate
until we are burned.
It doesn’t matter what came to pass.
If you prepare today, tomorrow will be easy.
I don’t mean to sound cheesy.
Leave the past where it is/gone by too fast.
One thing I learned, hard as a stone.
Everyone has a sad story/ I used to tell
mine all the time/thinking about all
the tears, pain, how gory.
My daddy taught me everyone’s lives vary.
Sympathy lies between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.
It’s not what it was.
It is and always has been what you make it.


to awaken for no good reason… Continue reading

container of care

My Modern Met

Plant a seed, this springtime. Hold it in your hand, and envision a world in which we live in balance with nature, at peace with one another, where creativity and love can flourish. Place your seed in the earth. Water and tend it as you tend those qualities and take those actions which can bring that world to birth.
–  Starhawk

We are all of us all the time coming together and falling apart. The point is, we are not rocks.
Who wants to be one anyway, impermeable, unchanging, our history already played out.
 –John Rosenthal

In our writing group, each week is an act of continuous tending. We come together to write and attend to a delicate ecosystem of words, writing, and agreements. If we do not hold to agreements, we can’t share our words. If we do not share our words, there is not point to the agreements. In this week’s group, I found myself saying again and again, “This is where our listening is as important as our speaking.”

And this is always true. Throughout group, there is no moment where listening is not fundamentally important – it is what allows us to write and hear one another, to share and be understood. The hope is that each of us use this as a model as we continue out into our lives. In the poems below, you will read what we heard and bore witness to, how the strength and consistency of our listening and the container created by our group leads to powerful writing, to power discovered in writing.


At times, we forget how much
we are really capable of dealing with.
We are taught as we grow to multiply fast,
hold our lives together: work, school, kids,
partner, house, set…
but are we doing the best we can
with all these things?
Are we giving it our all?
Or are we just getting by
at the end of the day?
We ask ourselves if we did okay
open our hand and ask for the strength
to get through it again tomorrow.



A hand turned upwards holds…

the life lines that linked me to my
mother’s womb, embraced my welcoming
into the unknown world, held tightly
on to my mother’s finger as she searches
for 10 fingers and 10 toes.

A hand turned upward held many
possibilities, opportunities only known
because I had to physically touch the gifts
given to me.

A hand turned up is a hand ready
to receive, a final exhale and moments
of impact are remembered and
the memory cherished.

A hand holds comfort, it searches
for love and it sheds the path of what
was old and welcomes the new.

A hand is steady, and strong, endures
pain remembers what’s familiar and
sometimes hesitant to change.



I would just describe her as an extraordinary yet ordinary woman.

Mama mama, you’re a star, a damn star.
Mama, remember when I lived in my car?
When I took the street shit too far?
How you always allowed me to come home?
You never gave up. You just loved me so hard.
Mama mama.
You’re the realist; I was always on the corners
making those deals, had to call collect
and you let me have it, always told me how you feel
and still do, although we shared many tears
and fears – the most common one was one
of us dying from our addiction, Mama.
You always prayed, I wouldn’t get killed.
My mama-my mama, you’re my world.
You taught me how to win and not be a loser.
I know I used to tell you, “I hate you,”
but really, I’d hate to lose you.
Mama mama, I know I’m incarcerated,
missing Mother’s Day. I’m sorry Ma,
but I’ll be alright. I really tried mama I still am.
Now that I’m older I regret making you,
all the times, I lied didn’t help none.
Mama your baby boy loves you.
You have a beautiful soul, Ma.

Mama, mama, you’re my lady.
You’re the realest. I love you, Mama.




My whole life I’ve been hidden
in institutions. In my mind,
I have always been trapped.
Locked away is where I find myself
with no possibility for change.
Every day, I put on a facade:
A pretty face, a huge heart
but beneath the surface
I’m falling apart, caught up
in the toxic life.
I’m looking for an exit only
finding dead ends.
But here’s a daily dose of brutal honesty:
Despair is not a strategy.
At times, I forget how much
I am really capable of dealing with.
A hand held upwards holds
what needs to heal.
Sometimes it comes to a rare moment,
one good fight. Other times,
we open our hands and ask
for the strength
to get through it again tomorrow.
A hand upturned is a hand
ready to receive.
I build my life better.
I never give up.
I carry on, a white fox,
a one-eyed race horse.
My power’s got no limits.


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



national poetry month

national poetry month

“To create art with all the passion in one’s soul is to live art with all the beauty in one’s heart.”
Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry

“The poet is the priest of the invisible.” — Wallace Stevens, from Opus Posthumous.

“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.” — Paul Engle, from an article in The New York Times.

There is a lot to celebrate because it is national poetry month. Poetry is the main mode we study, examine, and explore when writing on the inside. We share a poem every week, we teach poetic forms, and, most often, our writers create pieces that, between line break, stanza break, deliberate word choice, and potency of image, are more poetry than prose. Sure, we attend to structure but mostly, poetry works on the inside because of the scope. Poetry is broad in a small space. Poetry is a method of connecting with one another in a way that is nonviolent.

Know that we work is a small space. We have a gathering of tables in a spare computer room. We circle up with stacks of blank paper and a spare concrete and consistent agenda. We have spare, clear prompts: what would the perfect poem sound like? What do you use your voice for? There’s freedom in that spareness that allows our minds to roam into themselves and it is up to each of us to untangle our own abundant messes, to make our invisible churches visible.

In the space below, you will see the dangerous and gentle romps made using almost nothing to access everything. We write poetry because poetry is generous and it models generosity that we offer each other. Each writer has a page and is given the page of each other’s empty ear. We make poetry and then we listen. Now you may too.


Trying to write a poem from the bottom of my heart
and I can’t figure out the best place to start.
I found a million and one reasons to spill out I-love-yous,
had to come up with a million more to convince you that it’s true.
Nothing’s at face value, something always lies beneath.
It looks like heaven but you swear you feel hell’s heat.
Pretty as a butterfly just drifting in the wind.
Chase it to the middle of nowhere, find out that it brings
apples galore up at the tip top of that age old tree.
It looks so enticing but there’s so much more that you can’t see.
You got caught in a trap more than a time or two.
At one point in your life you didn’t think before you do.
But lessons in life are harsh and now look who pays the price
cause anytime I speak you put my head in a vice.
Look into my eyes and me – that spark is missing staring out
into a meadow the sun makes it all glisten.
Do you see it as an illusion, the toughest nut to crack?
Let me tell you something – these blue skies won’t fade to black.
No dark clouds in the distance, no fury in the wind,
the only part you fail to see is the sweetness in the sin.
An island on the ocean peaceful bliss, serenity,
after days it gets so lonely more like lost away at sea.
I guess that’s just what happens when that last coating peels away,
underneath is rotting wood ugly of an array.
This is the exception to most of life’s mysteries.
Take a chance just this one time.
The past is history.



Combat: I understand you perfectly, daring us to stay mad.

Took me a long time to really understand myself and to take a hard, long look and peel back the layers of hurt and pain that I just let turn into anger and resentment, and started to realize that it’s okay to feel the emotions and not let them dictate an angry soul. No longer combat, whether physical or mental and against myself or another being was all I knew and, as I sit here in a place I can’t escape, am forced to look at the one thing that truly matters while here and that’s me. Somehow I feel different, like this place is daring me to stay mad, almost provoking me to stay the person I have known for so long but I am aware of the good qualities I possess and the choice in roads to take and I’m choosing the harder road and leading myself back to life and freedom, am trying to work on forgiveness and letting the past be the past and once resentment has loosened its grasp on my heart and soul, not only will I be free from this place but am working towards mental freedom, so it is I that I understand perfectly.




Where do you begin to find the perfect poem?
What would the perfect poem begin to look and sound like?
I can’t tell you, that’s for sure
but it’s got my mind in an uproar
like little children doing chores
as the words to this perfect poem lay
all across this lonely floor
unaware if I am placing the utter of words
in a sentence that makes sense
as I ramble on I start to lose myself
in my own thought.