cassandra1In modern usage, ‘a Cassandra’ is someone whose accurate prophecies are not believed by those around them, thanks to the curse the god Apollo put on her gift of prophecy as revenge for her broken promise to him; or perhaps because she went mad by virtue of her incarceration by her father the king. Thus no one believed her foretelling of the attack on Troy – and look how that ended!

We all have times in our lives when we feel that our shouted warnings fall on deaf ears. We have experienced the ‘deja vu’ moments that cause us to cringe with recognition of our own precognition. And we often feel trapped, whether by an institution or history or our own interpretations.

In last week’s writing group inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, the common thread that pulls us all through such times is a shared belief in the power of voice. This proved but a  modest foretelling of the power of millions of voices raised two days later, both across this country and beyond, in support of those whose voices continue to be threatened by institutions of power. Inside prison and out in capitol cities of the world, throngs demonstrated with we showed through our words: belief in the power of one voice to save others. Magnified. Cassandra’s no longer, our voices shall be believed for the truths they carry. Continue reading

no way in, nor out

no one ever gets cured by the medical industrial complex

credit – politifake

As I was pondering a title for this post, the visual of a whirling circle came to mind. Something like a frenzied game of ‘Ring Around the Rosy’ my five-year-old daughter would have played all day had I not stopped from sheer dizziness.

I am dizzy again now. All I can think is ‘ashes, ashes, we all fall down.’

For months I have worked closely in the community with a woman who has been in and out of prison for years longer than I have known her. Many more. She has also been in and out of the state mental hospital, when Vermont had one.

What has become ashes is my hope of truly helping her. All the reasons are beyond my control. None of which makes me feel any better. This woman has significant mental and physical health issues. She is too belligerent for crisis assistance; too claustrophobic for her cosy apartment; too distraught to see herself, though she tirelessly seeks relief.

Her team wants her to learn to self-soothing skills. This is beyond her. She wants them to keep her safe. They think she isn’t trying. All fall down.

No drug, no therapy, no amount of reason can provide the safety she seeks. So she has perfected the one form of self-help that works when all others are denied. She gets herself arrested for assault or trespass when she demands, and cannot get, the security her frightened mental state cries out for.

This smart talented woman, trapped in a body and mind riddled with dis-ease but without prospect of improvement, has given up advocating for herself. She is exhausted and dispirited. Her life on the outside is no match for what lives inside. She has decided she’s better off in jail. She has fallen down, ashes.