indigo to infinity

This was read-around week inside. In place of our weekly  group, six of our core writers shared pieces they have written over the past several months. Their listeners included a handful of sister inmates plus over two dozen community guests. Funders, friends, potential new writing inside VT team members, advocates and other interested parties came to witness powerful words telling of life, dreams and hard work.

It is the magic of this work that each reading is utterly unique; each listener deeply moved; each evening seamless in its blending of depth and presence. Dialogue between readers and audience revealed the value of the writing program to the well-being of participants; and clearly, the witnessing evoked as strong a response from the outside guests as from the readers themselves.

What it comes down to is the words, powerful emotions captured in short bursts of writing that came back to our ears in new combinations. To honor that sense of weaving, I share the poem constructed from lines spoken at the reading. See for yourself what stories unfold line by line, imagining the individual threads that have come together to create this new whole.

INDIGO TO INFINITY – found poem from 10.26. read-around

My name is nobody.
They’ve taken my true meaning –
decommissioned as a mother,
the light that lives in me
eclipsed by ugly rhetoric –
and no one there to see the hurt.
That pain needs to be fed, locked away all those years –
those bitter twisted lies
the tangled untruths
such strange poison of my own
growing like a fruit, too ripe.

My brain is too heavy to hold.
I sit, I burn, I crumble;
my shadow’s gone and I want to go home
from these soulless halls,
unwinder of edges
drunk on the dismissal of my words.

I think it’s time to tell you you were wrong.
I am lover of all forsaken souls,
the demon inside.
I wanted to run but it’s never helped before,
the dance fierce and exhausting.
Tell your babies to survive –
you gave them your last breath –
and keep your politics out of my coffee.
It wasn’t as fun as it looked.
I’m not the only one who ties myself in knots;
maybe I’ll get it right next time.

Still, like dust, I rise.
I rise to be a better me,
live for the little something inside.
I will continue to rise ‘til the day I die.


weaving women’s lives

credit - artsatmit

credit – artsatmit

Intense silence among 35 women plus CRCF Superintendent Adams circled up in the visiting room. Temperature rising as fire and laughter erupt from readers. Tissues passed from hand to hand as tears flow, eyes dabbed dry, noses wiped. Voices raised in triumph, lowered in uncertainty; words whispered in prayer, spat in anger; hands clenched, waving, emphasizing point after point. All of this circling round and round the attentive deep listening of a reading inside the women’s prison in South Burlington, VT.

It started with a poem created from the words of a prior week’s writing group. A dozen women then chose their pieces, reading political rants and personal confessions, yearning for change and proclaiming it. By the end, women clumped together to share ideas for how they can improve conditions and opportunities for themselves inside while munching on fresh-baked cookies; or hugged one another in gratitude and appreciation for their courage in speaking out.

Comments echoed through the room reflecting what had been stirred through words: ‘love, all over, everywhere . . .’, ‘acceptance and belonging . . .’, ‘I feel connected to other women . . .’, ‘I am not alone… Strength, courage and togetherness. Freedom from the monotony of our self – induced imprisonment,’ ‘the room is so full – of life/emotion – my heart is stirring with all the potential and courageousness in this room…’ ‘My heart is filled with compassion and hope…’, ‘a reckoning, a revolution, a movement, spark/change…’, ‘inner strength, accomplishment, confidence, self-love, hope . . .


I love the idea of women’s insight and wisdom,
our vast emergent experience
commanding compassionate presence
by listening with a full heart.

Take our herstory: women who stood up
fire in their eyes and passion in their voices
even walking through a dark doorway alone;
to laugh, let go and let silliness reign;
stirring the pot with one hand,
pounding the dough into compliant loaves —
weaving their stories into ours and out again.

I am more than grateful
for a support system of strong women
daily working in a state of grace.
Before I didn’t care about these things;
it was a firm line we dared not cross,
a mockery of the possible strung with pain.

Ash is no match for the spark
of collaborative intimacy.
The love and loyalty we all deserve –
a seed growing, held, encouraged –
are our most outstanding features
working together hand over hand.

I know I am not weak or delicate;
I am a survivor, and one day
my voice will be heard.

*poem created from 3/4/15 mentor/mentee writing group read-back lines