“Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.”

As we enter the season of Advent, there is little to cheer on women incarcerated at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. Waiting and preparation are what their time is made of; and for many of them, the hope that originally wove through the fabric of time has simply worn thin.

Holidays can be a particularly tough time inside, as they remind us of family closeness and the warmth of special traditions. Yet in spite of all that seems to separate us from one another, our weekly opportunity to sit together, pen our thoughts and share them openly brings a measure of relief, of closeness … even of hope.

A sampling of the writing from this week follows, written by the artists whose work appears above:


Hope has no goddamned wings. Perhaps she had them once, a shining Christmas angel full-feathered. Now she staggers wet cobblestones dripping bloody stumps, stray feathers mutilated with her blood. She weeps and wails, sorry for herself or sorry for me. Hope has no goddamned wings. She doesn’t wear a sparkling samite sheath. She wears tattered rags, too worn and stained to be black, too mottled to be gray. Her muddy petticoat bares torn lace, my Freudian slip showing. Hope has no goddamned wings. Her feet bleed with every halting step, the mean and bitter earth cutting and snatching, tearing and rending tender, once-pristine feet. Hope has no goddamned wings. She was shot down long ago, if she ever flew at all on wings made of the dreams of fools. Hope has no goddamned wings. I’ve never seen her face shining with holy light, only wet with sweat and tears, folded like a Japanese fan with effort. Hope has no goddamned wings. She doesn’t sing a victory tune. She compels me on with a fucking dirge – mine – if I don’t work harder, faster, longer, better … mine, if I’m lucky. Hope has no goddamned wings.



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my house, my body

Credit: youngandjung.blogspot.com

It was a privilege to sit with our inside writers this week and have a chance to relive the read-around from a week ago. Still fresh in everyone’s memory, it came alive again through sharing the 50 comment cards (some of which were quoted, below) around the circle. Each time a familiar line was spoken, heads nodded around the circle. Such pride in community effort! Such supportiveness of one another’s courage!! Such joy at being spoken with as ‘real’ people, for a few moments of genuine interaction free of reprimand.

In keeping with our current theme of grounding, of experiencing ourselves as embodied presence, we challenged the women to write about themselves metaphorically. The challenge was inspired by Nancy Mairs (author of Remembering the Bone House)  and read: “write your body as a house, with the rooms being different ages or events.” I think we were all equally challenged. What emerged, however, was a surprising variety of interpretations of the prompt, ranging from the whimsical to the more concrete.

The following was written by a relatively new participant, the most she has yet written with us:

My House, My Body

As you step into my house, you step into my mind. My house is full of different rooms, just like my mind. When you close one door, I close a part of my mind. When you open one door, one door of my mind opens.

The first room of my house is full of little baby things. Safe baby things as for my body was only a baby,. As you proceed on to the second room in my house, you will see things that help you walk and more toys, as I am still a small child.

As you move on to the third and fourth and even the fifth rooms in my house, there are still little baby things; but they are starting to change, because I’m changing, changing into a little girl. The sixth and seventh rooms are pretty cool, full of coloring and learning to tie shoes and to read and color, for I am in school learning.

Rooms eight, nine ten are starting to become bigger and more adult-like. Continue reading

waiting for mom

A second story from this week’s prompt putting together three completely different writings into one connected whole. This final piece speaks for itself:

“As a child I remember anxiously waiting for her to reappear, just to see her beautiful face, to be reassured she was still there somewhere in my life.

I was disappointed a lot, waiting. It seemed that’s all I did is wait, play with the thought of what I’d do when she did come back to me.

As I waited, Grandma taught me how to bake, played with me, made me clothing, and nurtured me as she failed to do for my own mother. It’s like she made up extra for her misgivings when my mom was growing up.

Looking back on it, there was a cycle in generations, and then with my own children as well. I’m sure my own children felt the same when I was away too long and my mother took care of them. I believe my Grandma, my mom and I were good mothers; only we were only taught so much. I think there was something amiss, to have generation after generation repeat the cycle.

We three learned a deeply valuable lesson, all in all. We gave each child something to hold on to, remember, value and learn from. When it all comes down to it, I believe we have a deep bond and care; and with what was dealt to us throughout life, I believe there’s a deep passion and empathy for our family history.

It’s who I’ve become today. Sometimes I cry and become sad; but honestly, I believe life is as it should be now. We all have our own safe places. I’m grateful my children only went through half of what I did; but then, I guess it would be wrong to say what they went through was less than. Maybe I don’t know. I guess I can only hope; and one day I might know just what they honestly felt and what they say through their eyes.”

– TD

what we want is never simple – 2

The writing from last week’s circle was so powerful, I need to post another response to the same prompt from the same Linda Pastan poem:

What we Want is Never Simple

 I just wanted a break . . .

I wanted to figure out a way to live my day to day life and not dread getting out of bed every single morning. I wanted to do what I wanted to when I wanted to do it. I wanted to not worry about paying rent, feeding myself, or putting gas in the car.

I wanted to get high, stay high, and never ever have to go without being high.

I wanted to have a book published. I wanted to make my father proud. I wanted to do something bigger with my life than the mundane, barely-get-by-paycheck, pay bills, eat, sleep-and-do-it-again existence I feared so much. But mainly, I just wanted a break from the intense pressure of all these wants . . .

Now I am enclosed within walls 24 hours/day; no bills to pay, no worries about my next meal, or putting gas in my car. No worries about barely getting by on my paycheck; there is no getting by on $2/day. So yeah, in some ways, I guess I got what I wanted . . .

– JL