birth-copyLast week’s theme was ‘birth.’ Two of the epigraphs that topped our weekly agenda included these words:

…human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.
~ Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera;  


Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be…
~ Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Indeed most women chose to write about what is being birthed, or wanting to be birthed, in their lives.  Lines like ‘I want to bear freedom into my life!’ and ‘what wants to be born into my life? Success. Being successful and happy’ flowed around the circle.


 MEG, who will be released shortly, likens her newfound sobriety to its own birth:

Me trying to force myself to be sober and enjoy it is the same as giving birth to a child when you’re not ready to push yet … You cannot force a baby out of the birth canal that is not yet ready to be born. Let the contractions do their job and ease the baby down. Yes … now, breathe. It will all be worth it in the end. All the heartache, the pain, the loss, the endless condescending caseworkers and phony people disguised as friends of a friend, all the time spent wasted on people who won’t matter the minute I hit the gate … just breathe. Release the stress, the tension. Focus on the better you that’s about to start living real soon in the real world, in your second birth – your new sober self. Just breathe …

Even the writing to a line from the opening poem, ‘what gift will I bring him?’ harkened back to the experience of motherhood. Read this from AG’s words as she ponders what to give her son at their upcoming holiday visit: Continue reading

hearts in Boston

By Saildog Photography

By Saildog Photography

Our hearts are with the people of Boston today in the aftermath of the marathon tragedy.

In dire times like these, it is easy to succumb to hopelessness about our world, the human condition, maybe our own lives.

Instead we remain a people of hope, offering light touches of blessing and compassion where we can — today, tomorrow and the next.

This ‘found poem,’ composed of the woven words of the incarcerated women writers during a past circle together, reminds me of the daily exercise we are called to …

… one of acknowledging the suffering around us (not living in denial), yet starting over in heart and mind, refocusing our lenses to see the beauty, care and grace swirling all around us as well.


Good times become a memory,
dreams lost through selfishness.
I’m tired of living this life
waiting to be reborn in this stone cold place –
overcoming shame, my wrongdoings;
tossed and tattered, I scream — but will anyone
listen? The size of sadness cuts back like a knife.

I’m lonely, scared, terrified. I’ve pleaded
and prayed for a way to make it right,
seeking things I don’t deserve.
This life has molded me.

But good can come from nothing.

With a clean slate, I begin again,
validate these desires to start fresh
and start over, to better myself, tickle the soul
and warm the heart; to come and go as I please,
light candles in winter trees holding on
to the Divine, a good break to a bad end.

What am I waiting for?
Let me out into the snow
letting go of this life-sentence;
let me walk out of here with a smile
breathing in each different season
guided from the stars.
Let the year shine.

cold and empty place

Image courtesy of Deborah Koff-Chapin, Soul Cards II

Most of the writing we do inside is ultimately healing for the women involved – a process that extends across time. We do not see how or where the pain, the destructive cycles of behavior begin; and do not always see a resolution. Occasionally, however, an especially powerful writing session precipitates just that. As did yesterday’s. We were using Deborah Koff-Chapin’s soul card deck to deepen writing we had done earlier in the hour. This particular image fairly shouted across the table to RP, who snatched it up, started writing breathlessly, and then drew from her folder writing she had done just days earlier.

Turns out the two writings formed the ‘before-and-after’ of some intense healing work; the image being the fulcrum on which both balanced. Can you feel the writer’s shift in self-awareness and determination to live her life on her own terms?

Anger rising and seething around you.
I breathe in your bitterness and hate.
Left standing in the ashes of a life destroyed.

It is daylight, yet I walk in the dark.
I plead for you to stop your barrage.
Your face so contorted like a demon.
You try to twist my soul like yours,
on knees that are begging for you to leave.
I know you never ever will.
You have me trapped in a cell made of anger and resentment.

I have stopped fighting the ugliness you throw at me.
Stuck in your grasp like prey in a hawk’s talons.
The source of my sadness and emptiness.
Every word you say, meant to stab and maime me.
I have tried to run away but you find me again and again.

Staring down the devil is easier than looking in your eyes.
Were you born to be like this?
Did someone teach you how to be so toxic?
I can feel the coldness coming off the ice of your heart.
I have lost my love for you.
Hate isn’t what I feel for you, it is pity.

Chained to you for my whole life.
Your anger steeped into me 20 years ago.
I let you slowly kill me inside.
Let all my happiness and joy wither and die, like a rose once the cold comes.

I’ve stopped searching for answers.
Stopped looking for hiding places.
I will quietly bow out of this game; you won!

Will I rise like the phoenix from my ashes?
I ask for rebirth and flight everyday.
You are left to swirl around in the anger . . . all alone.

Just someone I used to know.

You wouldn’t like to see me this way.
You would rather I listen to what you say.

I’ve broken free from your chains.
I’ve begun to soothe my pain.

I am on my way to a certain peace,
where all the suffering you caused will cease.

I still have a piece of you locked inside,
yet it’s one I wish not to hide.

As I leave with a smile on my face,
I leave you in your cold and empty space.