perseverance and hope

“. . . women ‘hear each other into speech’ . . . making it possible for women to say things they have never said before, to think thoughts they would have suppressed. . . . new stories are born, and women who hear and tell their stories are inspired to create new life possibilities for themselves and all women.” – Carol Christ, Diving Deep and Surfacing

never-give-upLast week, in place of our regular weekly class, we opened the circle to include invited guests. There were inmates from other units. Also mentors from the community, as well as those who support our work on the outside. All told, we had close to 40 seated in a large open circle in the multi-purpose room inside CRCF.

Ten writers’ works were read, and everyone participated in read-back lines. As a result, we have a robust ‘found poem’ from those lines. In addition, everyone participated in sharing their thoughts after hearing the readings, in the form of ‘what do you take with you and what do you leave behind as a result of this evenings’ words?’

The comments were powerful and perceptive; and since we only do this twice a year, it feels important to share at least some of them here. Through these comments, those not present for the reading may get a small sense of the charged atmosphere of the small windowless room. Thanks also to our assistants in the audience who seamlessly helped quiet passing throngs of loud inmates; organize pad and pen distribution and retrieval; and keep things moving smoothly from start to finish.


I will remember the applause! I take words of wisdom with me. I hope I left behind good memories.

The read-around is amazing. It was nice to hear everyone’s words, especially about families. I will remember all the words that I have heard tonight. And how I took it all into my heart. Thank you for tonight 🙂

Hearing these voices, I am hopeful for each speaker’s future. It was inspiring to hear joy, fear, hope, anger, understanding — all in an hour. Encouragement, I hope.

“One voice … a sentence can change history.” Healing voices can heal others. The butterfly effect.

I am taking away a great appreciation for the women around me. Those that continually fight an endless battle to love, be loved and feel acceptance. A greater curiosity of the mothers who fought for the privileges I carry with me now.

What did you take with you tonight? All the magic of the words; the expressions of all those faces and hum of the voices. What do you want to leave behind? The sadness that I do not come to the class as often as I want.

I will take with me a grounded sense of hope. I will leave behind judgment.

I will take with me the strength of perseverance from those within. I will leave behind hope for all still there that they can maintain hope and optimism for their futures.

I take nothing but I gain everything from the willingness of these writers to share with us. I leave behind my thanks for the perspective of people in my community.

I will take the knowledge that every soul is a diamond. I leave the bonds that link us as friends and travelers on the same road.

Take with me – beauty, even in dark places. Leave behind – the idea that beauty happens only in happy places.

I am taking the enjoyment of the whole group. I will see you again. I’m taking the thought of not being alone with me.

Take with – appreciation for the effort to move toward the light.

I will take inspiration and hope for a better tomorrow for women who have been or are incarcerated. I’ll leave the pain and sorrow.

I will take away a sense that writing and sharing about sadness is helpful. I will leave behind my admiration for the strength it takes to be, and to write and to carry on.

I will take the positive words that were so well put together from the group. They were amazing poems. Well done, ladies. Thank you!

Take with you – I will take the words of all the readers in my heart. Leave behind – my last read-around and work with awesome facilitators.

I will take the courage, the perseverance, the ability to find some laughs. I will leave behind a bit of my heart and some prayers for everyone in the room.

Emotions everyone put into writing will stay with me. Fear of unknown I leave behind.

I didn’t expect what I heard this evening – it was great, such good writers. Very powerful. Wisdom.

I will take grace and encouragement. I will leave behind my emptiness.

Continue reading

vulnerability revisited

credit - Tigran-Tsitoghdzyan

credit – Tigran-Tsitoghdzyan

“We, as women, need friendships, soothing sisters to rely on to apply ointments to our wounds …”  – TC

My previous post shared the tender impressions of an ‘outside’ woman’s first visit ‘inside’ to assist with the writing group. Her own vulnerability felt like an intrusion on the intimacy of the inmates she saw at a distance but whose lives she has yet to witness up close.

In Thursday’s group, TC wrote of the need for that very sense of intimacy among women friends.  Even – or especially – inside. She writes of the challenges of opening to potential wounding, at the same time acknowledging the greater need that can be soothed in the process.


Intimacy to the point of vulnerability
unashamedly opening up my emotions
to allow another to examine my thoughts
is an action that I frequently disallowed – until recently.
Although vulnerability over the past three years has become
more frequent, there come times when
people’s behaviors and actions distract me
from the path I have decided to walk –
and I want  to come out of character
and react – so I have to allow others
into my space to soothe me as a calming
ointment would – to remind me of where
I am going and of who I have become.
I believe allowing that vulnerability is a
kind of intimacy friends can share,
not only lovers. Intimacy
is such a broad term – but not one
often used and shared. We, as women
need friendships, soothing sisters
to rely on to apply ointments to our wounds,
our vulnerable spots, our emotional scars. It
is so difficult to be vulnerable and trust
anyone, even for a moment, because that
one person causes the next wound. And
we move on.


vulnerability and courage, take 2

Credit: tinybuddha

Credit: tinybuddha

As always, the poems created from lines shared by the women in the writing circle can knock the breath right out of you. It’s not enough that the writing is immediate, uncensored, raw; the found poem combines the immediate, uncensored, raw words of a dozen women in one place. Their words tumble over one another, weaving wisdom from the depths of herstory, from a higher power, from the most ordinary of circumstances — all converging within the confines of a state prison.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of fear;
I feel fear, I want to be numb
numb because I have to be
explained to death, justified.

I never had what it takes
to step into the unknown without knowing the outcome.
Numbness has become my disease;
empty and broken
the living of life, gone.
Her heart lies naked, dying proudly
from a waning of trust.
It’s better to feel hurt than pain;
easier not to feel anything than feel everything.

Weakness is her failure, the slayer.
I look at what’s wrong with you so I don’t need to look at me;
your weaknesses may be the same as mine.
The entire mouth droops
trying to hold onto lies,
truth overwhelming her
beating back the dark.

What do you have to hope for?
Courage – unapologetic courage –
a quality we all possess
to cover the gap
of what lies beneath.
Courage is acting against fear
to be in truth in the midst of lies.
I take courage like food
allow myself to try
regardless of the outcome.

 Change is a difficult concept.
Without hope I would not have gotten through.
Hope is the seed of intention
helps me think outside my constraints
to build something new on something old.
Hope is a beautiful field to a prisoner;
the places you find yourself can be exciting.
Hope is at the heart of every struggle;
struggling makes us appreciate it even more.
Struggle is the road sign.

Without challenge I have no way to know my own worth.
So try regardless of the outcome.
To be me is a sweet thing
no longer weak but a warrior.


From this past week’s writing, another take on what the writer wants/does not want an other to see. This writing comes with a twist, however.

Your perception of me needs to shift, if ever so slight.

I must tell you, your view of me was definitely skewed.

However, that might possibly be my fault.

I hid who I am from you, and tucked it out of sight.

I did not trust myself or anyone else enough to let them see in.

Many apologies for my countless mistakes.

But, I will ONLY apologize just once, because we must move on.

I may have seemed flighty or foolish; but I am clever and calculating, always thinking, observing, analytical and maybe a little forgetful.

I seemed like I had many secrets and not the most honest.

Truth be told, I was! The secrets have been revealed and honestly? Well, I am ready to tell and hear it all. Continue reading


It’s been a while since we posted a ‘found poem’ created by lines of women’s writing from a previous circle.

In this case, the lines were gathered at our ‘public’ reading of a number of pieces from several months. Therefore the theme is one created by the proximity of lines to one another and their entirety, rather than being in response to a particular prompt.

Behind me must be forgotten –
addiction, The Devil
critical of my hair
untamed, unhinged;
cupid’s careless arrow
plucked from the sky
swatting the air thick with
trust, love, hope and dreams
vulnerable to the game;
thinking there’s no danger is absurd. Continue reading