the struggle for truth

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. –Mahatma Gandhi

I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t. – Audre Lorde

There is struggle in prison. That comes as a surprise to no one. Even when entering, passing through doors that buzz before they open, electricity clicking them wide and then slamming shut them behind us, people passing through and around, head counts, searches, this is an incontrovertible truth, a reality. This is the kind of tension incarcerated women live with every day.

Since its inception, prison was designed to distance an individual from their identity, giving people numbers and uniforms. Even the fruit punch at chow is served without a color. It’s clear. The space, particularly at CRCF, can have the potential to rehabilitate but on what foundation is this built when women are not given the tools to create and maintain their individual identities? What truths can we gather in such a limited space?

That’s where the writing comes in. The page is meditative space where we are made more free no matter what walls surround us, whether we built them or someone else did, whether they need to come down or provide support for a bit longer. Here is where the digging happens and these women are deeply equal to it, aware of truths that come Continue reading

one woman’s truth . . .

During last Thursday’s inside writing group, in response to the prompt ‘what is your truth,’ two very different writings emerged. I put these side by side here because together they illustrate the struggle women go through day in and out to find the light even when they are dragged down and through the deepest dark.  Some days go better than others, as for all of us. On the other hand, there is a definite downward slide in attitude and energy for change as serial returns to prison mount along with the charges. The door has revolved one time too many for SS; for MG, there still gleams hope for a real future. Both are these women’s truth as of Thursday October 18, 2012.

Heart cracked. Split. Old. Dead. Self-inflicted wounds. Run deep. Life’s marks left in the sand. Every groove represents life’s struggles. Hazy cloudy forgetful. Can’t remember how I got there. Dismay. My burdens buried deep within the channel. Hidden in the cracks. My channels carry secrets and lies no one should know.

My cracks hold truths that are decaying my head from inside out. My years are young but my heart is old. If you counted all the rings, that’s the lifetimes my heart has seen. Pain in every ridge. It’s amazing it’s still whole. It loves a little less. I thought age and pain would allow me to love. But truth is my heart no longer pumps love, but pumps hate instead. It’s not red and warm. It’s not a cozy place to be. It’s grey, cold and ugly. Filled with lifetimes of truth. Filled with history, filled with past. It is no longer light with life. But heavy with death. – SS

*    *    *

I love to fish. I could sit out on the lake for hours on end with a line in the water in the blistering sun, watching and waiting for what is bound to come next. And to be able to spend this quality time with other people who share the same passion as you is exhilarating. Always looking over to your neighbor seeing what they have managed to take from the deep vast with only a hook and line.

And as the circle of life lives on, the natural beauty of the earth protrudes to the surfacing as the sky sings its lullabyes and puts the sun to rest. The creatures that belong to it nestle in their quiet dens preparing for the following day. Hoping for a better future and a better life. Reflecting on how things could’ve been and predicting how they might turn out. It’s all an endless process. The only thing you can do is make the moment you’re in bring a smile to your face. – MG

a mother’s strength, revisited

Last night, I sat in a circle with seven women inside Vermont’s women’s prison talking about the roots of Mother’s Day. I read Julia Ward Howe’s  “Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870 (watch dramatic reading here.)

Portrait drawing of poet, anti-slavelry activi...

Drawing of poet, anti- slavelry activist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe (Wikipedia)

Most of us have no idea that Mother’s Day originated as a movement toward international peace. Reading Howe’s words today feels as immediate and relevant as if they had just been written. Sadly. And, on a more personal note, finding peace with mother – within and without –  continues for many women to be a lifelong struggle.

One of the prompts offered last light was to share a remembered scene of my mother, something learned that I want to take with me today.  Read JL’s moving story below. Continue reading