“We open/ a persimmon seed to find the tree/that stands in promise,/pale in the seed’s marrow.” from ‘The Wild Geese’ by Wendell Berry

With an underlying theme arising from the above epigraph – ‘the promise in the seed’ – we opened last week’s group to a couple of new ideas. First, we had about 15 minutes of pure socializing time before getting down to write. This was a request in response to the challenge of maintaining silent focus on the writing for an entire group. Our second novelty was incorporating a celebration into our circle time, complete with fresh oranges, popcorn and punch. Again, in response to a direct request the week before. After all, we were coming into prison to write between Christmas and New Year’s – a time we usually take off. So it felt particularly important to incorporate the wishes and needs of our writers.

To blend the themes of fruit and seed, we opened with an excerpt from Li Young-Lee’s lengthy and multi-layered poem, “Persimmons.” Writing prompted by lines from the poem sprouted in many directions, from darkest despair to fondest memories to in-the-moment sensory instructions for peeling an orange. Some of these writings appear below for you to read. While it is not possible to share every writing on this site, we hope this sampling gives you a taste of the variety, depth and immediacy of our writers’ expressiveness. Who knows – their words may seed something in you as you read. Do let us know what moved you by leaving a comment below!


I gave him the orange
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.
How our lives made us work,
work very hard. For in the end,
your prize will be sweetest orange
that you have ever tasted.

Yes, mistrust, lies and awful people
made us make this hard shell around us
just like orange peel. It’s hard,
untouchable, resistant and protective
over the soft sweet juicy body
that holds so secretly together. Continue reading