weathered change

landscape images

Brisbane Art

  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for   today, and creates a vision for tomorrow – Melody   Beattie

  At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a   spark from another person. Each of us has cause to   think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted   the flame within us. – Albert Schweitzer

As we’ve continued to discuss the link between the personal and the political, our lives have also continued. We focused our writing attention on gratitude but also discussed the changes in all our lives and how writing and poetry helps us both mark and weather these changes, giving space for our identities to hold these changes and become them at the same time. It’s complicated. Most of the time, we say we’re freaking out. We can all handle more than we think. In pieces below communicate this both through their content and the overall strength of the writing.

I who have died am alive again today

My life is two parts.
I am two people
with two faces,
two hearts,
two souls,
two meanings,
past and present,
before and after.
Then and now…however you like to call it,
good and evil.
It really and truly was, and still is, a spiritual battle.

The past, the before , the then, the evil; still
creeps up and takes the leading role.
The claws of this entity dig deep and direct
my into darkness. It’s defeating and I cry out,
making it known. This is the part of me
I am not fond of these days. At one time
I didn’t mind so much, but I know now there’s
a whole different realm to be a part of. I don’t
have to exist in the darkness.
The present, the after, the now, the good…
this is where I thrive and I am most alive.
You have to understand it was in the darkness
that I have died. That part is gone, for the most part.
With that vacancy, I have filled with light, the most illuminating,
beautiful light. It does not dim. I does not go out.
This will guide my path from here on.
This will show me the way to something greater.
Let my spirit shine.
Let me live.



This is the birthday of life and love

finally being free from this cage
starting fresh with my kids and family.

This is the birthday of life and love

leaving everything in the past
pushing for a brighter future
letting go of the old and looking towards the new.

This is the birthday of life

the feeling of change and triumph

and love.

Time to be the woman I was meant to be.



Dark, burning, lighted the flame within me.
   A canker, a searing, raw, weeping sore
   curled tight and stubborn, shadowed changeling.
Dark, burning, opening my eyes to the flame.
   An acid, burning, corroding, etching passion
   all-consuming and desirous, villainy, and revenge.
Dark, burning, candle to my mirror’s dark.
   Confiscating, glittering, starry-eyed dream of the end,
   perpetual, inescapable companion, twin, twined, mate.
Dark, burning, flaming eyes wide.
   Truth, crucifixion carried daily, shows at 6 and 11,
   rivers run, red and clotted, fish-choking, floating, stench.
Dark, burning, burn it all and watch with glee,
   dance to destruction, partners change,
   blood, wine, and sacrifice, journey never ending.
Dark, burning, blister and char my skin.
   Penalty, penalty, every step an agony, endless litany
   of sin burned into mind and heart and skin.
Dark, burning, ashes and sparks fly free.
   A mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,
   soundlessly screamed by a voice already long gone.
Dark, burning, dervishes spread inferno and children.
   Whispered venom, poison pen, a Google search,
   no starting over, no second chance.
Dark, burning, eyelids seared away.
   Secret places, a room of my own, solitude
   ripped away with peace by hands marked, “Justice.”
Dark, burning, bring me to the stake.
   Make a martyr of one in my own mind
   though you and yours will call it well-earned.
Dark, burning, the ropes will bite.
   Hold me up, display me, my cart through town.
   throw refuse, scream. Sharpen the Guillotine.
Dark, burning, light the flame that burns me.
   This. This is your motivation. Not that you
   should burn me, but that I should burn myself.
Dark, burning, ashes, ashes, cinders, and soot.
   Nothing left, no spirit, no fire, no merry,
   pyromaniacal light in eyes gone dead.
Dark, burning, wind scours runnels in sodden ash.
   Echoes, footsteps, and voices giving voice to long
   dead echoes, the light will burn my eyes.




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.


personal political


When you make a choice, you change the future.“–Deepak Chopra

“What is the point of having free will if one cannot occasionally spit in the eye of destiny?“–Jim Butcher

In the next few weeks, we will examine the relationship, that is to say the direct link, between the political and the personal. This week, we used Jameson Fitzpatrick’s poem “I Woke Up” as an introduction. The poem guided through a method of walking  through both a day and a thought process that allowed us to be observant of our shared and individual experiences as well as reflect on how these experiences are political. That is to say that our every day lives are reflective of and inform the larger systems that guide our world. We used these ideas as a jumping off point to start our writing.

In our circle, we are very accustomed to sharing the personal. We even had a couple new members at the writing group who very quickly shared their personal experience. It is harder to recognize our lives as political and engage in that kind of thinking. We are walking towards it as we read and write together.

In the pieces below are the result of these reflections and discussions:

It had been, this whole time I was asleep.

The scenes flashed by like those from a dream, but I wasn’t asleep. I say dream but we all called it a nightmare. Bittersweet memories is all they have become and there is nothing really more to say. I kept thinking that maybe I would wake up from the drug-induced stupor I put myself in. I mean it sounded good to say it but the reality was I never woke. I never slept. I never dreamed. I just faded, nodded and kept telling my heart that I was sorry. What do you even call that? Once again, no answers come to mind and even if they did, it would probably be another one of those really lame excuses that I am so good at concocting. You know you get so tired and exhausted from being in that kind of state. It becomes autopilot but sloppier and more off-kilter. People tend to know that something’s wrong and all I can manage to say is, “Oh sorry, I’ve been asleep. I’m just not awake yet.” Yeah, like I ever will be, but maybe nobody else knows yet. I don’t even trust myself enough to sleep it off, I might not wake up and if I don’t, how will I take these pills I have left? What if I can’t dream anymore? What will they say? I’m thinking too much, too hard and it takes the last bit of my strength. I have to lay down. I have to rest. I close my eyes to find that all of these nightmares are real. I want to wake up to get away from myself. I guess it just doesn’t work that way…somebody needs to wake me up when all of this is over.




I made coffee and the coffee was political. Isn’t everything, though? I suppose I find it most ridiculous that little things, little choices have become so politicized. If your new loveseat isn’t made from fair-trade, eco-friendly, compacted resin-coated bamboo from a country that pays living wages and organic, free-range naturally dyed hand-woven hemp, what kind of revolting, monstrous person are you? That’s leaving aside the politics of why you’re getting a loveseat! Are you too antisocial to buy seating for more than a guest or two? Are you, decadent American, hogging more square feet of living space than you really need? Worse, why are buying new and participating in a consumer-based and materialistic society? Did you at least buy it made in the U.S.A.? Did you pay your fair share of taxes on it? Why do you have disposable income to spend on new, fancy furniture when there are people who are homeless?? Did you check every part of the manufacturing process to make sure no child labor was used and no Trump profited? Exhausting, you say? Well, you just must not care very much about our planet if you don’t check these things! Don’t pretend any of that is even remotely ridiculous or unlikely to happen. It happens with everything. Try reading a book by Marion Zimmer Bradly and get treated to a lecture on how she was a child abuser. Try drinking a cup of Folgers coffee to the tune of rainforest deforestation and child labor. Wear a top you got at Goodwill and get a spiel on the sweatshops that brand of clothes uses and on where Goodwill’s profits “really” go. Buy a car – is it a hybrid? Don’t worry, you’ll get an earful either way. Does it ever occur to social justice warriors – or any of the rest of the modern moralists – that I do not care, don’t want to hear about it, and am completely disinterested in their free-range, fair trade, eco-friendly, sustainable, American-made, recycled, upcycled, organic, pesticide-free, GMO-free, gold-plated granola? I bet it hasn’t. Want to know a secret? I just want a cup of coffee that tastes good and doesn’t cost the earth – and I really don’t care about all the rest of it. Keep your politics out of my cup of coffee and off my loveset – it’s new…I’m not even letting the dog on it, and I like him.




I thought I was not a political poet and still my imagination was political.

Am I republican or a democrat? This is political.

Where do I begin to let go of my thoughts about Donald Trump? That is political.

Wonder if my opinion is and will political…

I must say, I’m not very political.


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!