artwork by AG

At this time of year, there is so much waiting. Waiting for winter to end. Waiting for the first signs of spring. Waiting for spring to stay around long enough to enjoy. Waiting to shake off those winter blues. Waiting to feel better. Waiting to hear what the courts have to say. Waiting to go home.

Inside or out, waiting feels the same. It is mixed with memory, with apprehension, with love and despair. It comes in waves, sits like a boulder, dissipates vapor-like before us. Waiting holds all the weight of its negativity. Even joyful waiting can feel heavy because time slows down to such a painful, slow pace.

Although waiting was not the topic of any recent writing, the weight of time has seeped through many recent writings. Regret for past actions and waiting for time to set them right. Feeling that no matter how hard we try, things don’t change. Hoping against hope for love to buoy us up. Perhaps above all, the inside writing these days has a heaviness to it in contrast to the increasing light outside, the birdsong and sun and emerging color that lift spirits that live in them. Another reminder of the stark reality of ‘life’ behind concrete windowless walls.

make a parachute out of everything broken …

Down a long dark hallway
there’s a door.
To an average eye it’s just a door.
Behind the door lies a bedroom.
Punished, forced to stay.
Where to hide.
There isn’t enough hours in the day.
Her mother’s always distraught.
Her father’s at work.
There’s noone there to see the hurt.
In that very bedroom, dark shadows arise.
And curled up in her closet
the lonely girl cries.
She wants to run but it’s never worked before.
But if she stays, then
the pain will come so much more.
When she asks for help,
scolding is obtained.
For it’s only a lie and
the boy is being framed.
Sneak out your window, she’ll
give it one more try.
Too scared of the dark,
she can’t run, only cry.
Only 13, what can she do
when everything is broken.
Then the wind blew.
She climbs onto the roof from the woodpile first,
her heart beating so fact she swears it might burst.
If she was a bird, she’d just fly away.
But she couldn’t leave for five more years that May.
She dreamt of her pain and all she had felt
and wished she could charge her stars as she stared at Orion’s belt.
A parachute from her broken dreams, raised on a broken heart.
But one day she’d land and get a fresh start.


Now what do you want to do about it?
Well, my first reaction to my pent-up frustration is to argue and stand up for myself. But then I remind myself how close I am to leaving this place. And also I came here alone, and I’ll leave alone, even though I did end up with a couple people I think I can call my friends. I knew I was going to hate coming to jail and being confined. But I didn’t think about all the different personalities under one roof. That alone can drive someone crazy. But mixed together with all aspects of jail life is definitely not a place I want to keep coming back too. I feel as though I am being tested on a daily basis on skills I have learned while being here. I can proudly say “I’m winning, not getting a rise or reaction out of me” All I want is to live a happy life out in the real world. Surrounded by people that genuinely care about me and enjoy my company. At the end of the say, it’s just me I need to worry about, making the right decisions to get me out the doors to a better life.


My heart was once full,
I felt so complete.
I was filled with so much love,
I never skipped a beat.
Now my heart is broken,
and I feel so empty.
My insides are screaming,
someone please come and help me.
So much has happened in the past few years
from joy and happiness
to heartbreak and tears.
From working to not,
my kids here and then gone.
It seems like a lot,
and I’m not even done.
I’ve changed so much,
more than I ever thought I could.
I hate the direction I’m going –
it has done me no good.
So here’s where I stop
and turn my life around
before it’s too late
and I end up in the ground!



“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

a grand-daughter’s gratitude

Last night, we sat in circle inside Vermont’s women’s prison in the midst of a typically chaotic day. Women returning from work crew were exhausted, out of sorts, choosing showers and downtime and phone calls home as buffers. One woman wept in a corner of the resonant  hall. Another was escorted by two Corrections Officers with a lost look on her face.

When time came for our evening group from the general population, it was unclear just who would show up or what explanations we would receive for absences. After all, the group is not mandated. Women come because they choose to. They come to explore their feelings; to untangle the choices that brought them to jail in the first or third place; to seek support for shaky new shoots of resolve they tentatively plant in the safety of our carefully-held circle of deep listeners and wise women.

And last night, they came, new participants in tow, to remember a strong woman in their lives, a woman whose influence grows in them with the opportunity to recall and reflect on values that may have gotten trampled or dissolved through short-sighted decisions with unintended long-term consequences. JL’s story is one such. The featured image is her symbolic representation of what her grandmother has meant to her in her life: Continue reading

meaning of Easter

Anticipating the recent dual-holiday weekend at our last writing sessionImage, we asked our writers inside to recall favorite childhood memories, and to reflect on how their understanding of the holiday has deepened or changed in adulthood. One women writes:

I was too young to understand the value of Easter. As a child you believe that your family will always be there. The people that I refer to as my grandparents were actually my step-grandparents, my stepmother’s parents. My stepmother couldn’t have children and she had no siblings. But this was my family; they raised me and made every holiday special and unique. My stepmother was the best mother anyone could ask for, in spite of my shortcomings as a daughter.

With my grandparents in heaven and my parents in Florida, we do not spend any more holidays like we used to. However, without missing a beat, my stepmother – my mom in the truest sense of the word – sends me a card for every holiday, from Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day. It brings back all the wonderful memories. Memories locked in my heart that cannot be confined by these walls that confine my body.