to the women out there

cover image of woman with wings

credit – CD cover

During our ‘outside’ writing group this past week, I found myself penning a note to all those women who have written with writing inside VT over the past five years. Perhaps that’s because it’s an anniversary of sorts, as the outside program builds upon the inside one. Perhaps because the evening’s opening poem brought the image of women with wings to mind. Perhaps because in this season, as we begin to turn once again to budding renewal, I think of each woman whose words penned in our circles brought new possibilities to light.

I want to dedicate this post to the more than 200 women who have sat in the writing circle with us since January 2010 – whether once or weekly, whether inside or out today. Your words, your presence, your courage have made a difference to one another, and to each of us. May you continue to speak your truths and seek their expression as you return to/create your ways into the future.

who wrote with me inside

Feel your wings
rising on the wind
spread strong to support
your inmost intentions

Feel your wings
flutter and flap, testing
the air you enter, the earth
to which you return

Feel your wings
fueled by time
and opportunity
outstretched in offering

Feel your wings
whisper the moon’s waxings
and wanings in hushed shadow
and full-circle brilliance

Feel your wings
fold neatly in prayer
and supplication to the power
of your beliefs

Feel your wings
spill words like petals
shaken from the bloom
soft and redolent

Feel your wings
their echoed flight
resonant still
in the hollows of our hearts

Feel your wings
parse their rhythm
to send you
well on your way

Feel your wings
the staccato and flow
of upbeat and down
following your harmonies home


The Courage to Tell Our Stories

It takes courage to tell our stories.-Christina Baldwin

Discovering this practice of courage… requires a skilled listening, . . . to get under the surface of what is being said. To learn this practice of courage we need time and space to breathe freely, to be vulnerable, to speak honestly with one another. – Annie G.Rogers

We’ve had more than one group focus on the courage it takes to tell our own stories. This bears repeating. We carry ourselves in each story we tell. We carry each other in the hearing. We are revealed in ways we can’t predict or control. Writing is a leap, a fall, a catch, a risk that surprises us in its intensity. To overcome this takes courage.

The women who return to the group overcome again and again. Their stories are not told all at once but in layers, deepening the more times and ways they are told. As the story grows, each woman’s skill grows and the stories sharpen into focus, each woman reflected more completely and bravely on the page.  Continue reading

why is that?

source unknown

source unknown

Last night’s writing group at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility was cancelled due to lockdown. Why is that? There are a number of possible reasons, none of which was shared with us. Ironically, the previous week we had a lively group of inmates committed to coming weekly and a team equally committed to being there.

But lockdowns happen in prison. So in lieu of sharing new writing, I’m posting the ‘found poem’ created with lines heard from each of the dozen or so women present last week. The writings ranged from feelings about community to courage in words and the value of writing — and just about everything in between. Why is that? Because each group is deep and thought-provoking.

WHY IS THAT? – found poem

If no one cared about me I would be heart-broken.
There is so much more to learn about us,
new stories being hatched, gasping for air,
counting seconds and breathing.

I struggle with what to write,
this fear like a heat lamp.
Will they judge me for feeling,
not seeing what was always there?
How can a feeling be wrong?
My words strip me bare –
my troubles, sorrows and dreams
fear being loved,
trapped in this time zone.

What can I do with my disappointment?
It’s very difficult, this tight spot I’m in,
my loneliness that has hardened into glass.
Certainty has a damaged past, but curiosity has gotten over it,
learns information about the tone and color of my insides.

Truth is, you have to care about yourself,
tiptoe into a new atmosphere.
You may find out something you never knew.
Curiosity knows no boundaries, is an unwritten book.

How could one so meek write a lion’s roar?
I wonder if by the time I leave here I will be someone else
lighter, lightening, almost ready to strike.
Possibility grants us both roots and wings,
a new beginning and maybe a different ending.
What is possible?
Real listening,
more chocolate, bubble baths, and women laughing.