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.


who I’ve become

10-6-mandalas_0010-copyThis past Thursday evening was our semi-annual reading inside the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility where all incarcerated women in Vermont are housed. We had over 40 guests, at least half of them from the outside community. These included leaders in criminal justice reform, publicists, providers in re-entry programming, mentors to our writers, volunteers, DOC personnel, writing inside VT advisory board members and assistants, and friends.

The evening was nothing short of magical, in the words of one first-time reading attendee. Feedback included so many supportive and surprised responses, like these:

Feelings of hope and words of self-love and acceptance are rising up for me; images of these women as only criminals are falling away. They are humans.

What a waste to lock away these minds, these hearts, these words! What is falling away from me is who I thought was in the room as opposed to who was really there.

I never even began to imagine a lot of the realness that was within these women. Maybe they aren’t so bad after all.

These women have been through such a journey. Perhaps the ideas that separate us are not so great after all.

I’m struck by how much beauty and wisdom there is in the readings tonight.

A particularly poignant moment occurred when one of our long-time writers spoke from her heart at the end of the evening. She thanked everyone for caring enough to come, to listen, to give the writers confidence that their stories, indeed their lives, matter. She composed a poem of gratitude on the spot which we anticipate will appear in local press within the week. Be sure to watch for the link! 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.


women unmasked

Masque baoulé

Masque baoulé (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week we received a packet from Monroe Country Correctional Center in Bloomington, IN. Women in G Block had read poems from HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write. Moved by those words, they penned responses to the authors here in VT during their own recent writing circle.

Our writers inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility last Thursday night witnessed firsthand how powerfully words can connect women. Women sharing the experience of incarceration, yes. But more than that, women unmasked and vulnerable connecting with one another through writing.

Because Thursday was also Halloween, we wrote about the masks we hide behind, the masks we want to become, the masks of who we once were. The poem by new writer TC, below, fairly explodes with the tension of masking the pain and loss of separation from her children. Another connection felt, made, witnessed. Continue reading