My blog/PROGRESS

“What I would do to have that moment again”

Wandering and Wondering are my two favorite things…

“I want you to just BE”

FOCUS ON:

November 24, 2019

Focus on my balance

Focus on how bashful I am when your composure proves me wrong.

Focus on my limits

Focus on my facial expression, where the lines in my face could lead you to a better place

Focus on my madness because you know it is what drives me

Focus on how I feel on Monday morning without coffee

Focus on how I expect love from places I thought I was familiar with

Focus on my bones when they become frail

Focus on how I think about you at 2am

Focus on 2:30am when I become tired and full of restrictions

Focus on 5am when I wake up sleepless and think about how many minutes of the day I would think

Focus on what I say to you when I am pressured by your eyes

Focus on me, the only person that will accept you even when you never gave me acceptance.

I want you to look at the ground and be content with your placement and when you look back,

that is if you look back,

I want you to look at the footsteps in the sand and be comfortable enough to take another step without having to worry about the ocean taking them away.

                                                                                    -Ali Al-Arithy

I want you to be happy!

I want you to experience the things that I lacked. I want you to run as fast as your lungs allow not from the things that scare you but towards the things you love most. I want you to keep attempting to fly, fly as high and as far as you cannot because some metal wings will take you there but with the love that you held on to for someone else. With your hands, hold what it is that tells you that you’re important, not to them but how important you are for this world because if this world had more people like you, this world would be envious of itself.

I want you to be happy, I want you to be yourself.

                                                                       -Ali Al-Arithy

Benches:

I have a sad appreciation for them,

they are constantly empty because, sitting and enjoying weather, and the state of “being” isn’t enough without you

-Ali Al-Arithy

3389 Greenfield Rd

Coffee with you, 

In the evening time.

Is like having the conversation,

That I had with you the first time, 

I knew I met, 

You

-Ali Al-Arithy

November 17, 2019

“Sunsets feel like…”

Bittersweet Sunday’s, I used the energy I had left to make myself feel acceptable. I traveled to the WHV, the drive seemed longer than usual. I tried my best to make sure I was ready.

This semester has felt the longest. I think the exhaustion of thinking about Monday forces me to be in this state of mind. Nonetheless, I missed the students at the WHV, they give such a positive surge and it makes you better than you were before you entered the stagnant state of being that is the WHV. I entered the glass doors into the cold and hot room. The security guard was different, patient, he was ease and I grabbed my pass and made my way to the locker number 18. It was the locker that I gravitated towards every time I am at the lockers. I felt the need to try to get in as quickly as I could. The sweet voice of Lara yelled “One” as the door shook open and then I stripped my jacket and walked through the metal detector. I took off my socks and shoes and made my way through the way with the sea in blue and orange.

I entered the classroom. And waited, and wrote the words on the board as follows:

“Whether the weather be cold, whether the weather be hot, will be together whatever the weather, whether we like it or not”

The students walked in and greeted me with warm smiles, and they faced me with anticipation. I made them stand beside their seats and chant the above quote while placing their hands on their diaphragms.

We chanted alliteration to teach them about breathing and annunciation of the same beginning words to help with tempo and phrasing. I noticed they’re writing is in a ballad form, a story-telling and I wished their breathing and pauses could be used. I wanted them to be familiar with slam/performance style of poetry because I think when they perform these poems for the next poetry night I think the conviction will come with their voice, inflections and breathing.

Reflections: Exciting, Challenges and WritersBlock with the WritersBloc. November 11th

If there is something consistent that I would have to point out is that Sundays have been a constant reminder of how much I have gained from the outreach experience. Working with seclusion, working with women that use the 7 days, 168 hours, knowing the few things that we have in common are: sleeping, perhaps eating at a scheduled time.

Hearing the stories at the WHV has been empowering. I look forward to these Sundays because I know the women look forward to these Sundays.

Wind mixed with raindrops, walking through the yard with fenced barricades, intertwining wire, fenced 16 feet tall and all of the entrances keep you in. Sunday blues/depression seems to be nonexistent when you place yourself in a cold room and the only life is from the smiles that fill the room.

I entered the programs building and signed in, shouting “MALE IN AREA” I walked back to the room with 16 chairs, it was cold again, and the women started to enter one by one. I looked forward to the dependence, bringing in the outside as they were never hesitant to share the confines of the WHV. One of the students looked and seemed to be down, a puffy disposition and I am not only talking about the multi layers that kept the heat, her body temperature constant in the cold room. Her name was “S”, she raised her hand as the class became silent enough to feel the cold breeze from the closed window, and I could have sworn I heard it. She explained that her grandmother passed this week and as much as that impacted my blood flow, I think time slowed down when I realized that because she is in this place she is not able and capable to go out of her way to see, contact what’s lost. It is a pain, an empath would never be able to control anyway. I felt for “S”, I thought about her writing this year and I wasn’t able to put myself in her place because I could imagine, feeling constantly stuck, and no matter how much I claw in my life, pulling faith in my direction, praying to a spiritual being that I would probably identify with a name if I was stuck in that place. I felt for “S”, I felt her tears being held back by the dams that are her eyelids. She excused herself for the rest of the night. I couldn’t help but to think about her on my way back home. This day hit hard, the combination of the week and Sunday and how this month has been a month of loss, I am trained to take in hardships and attempt to turn them into motivation, and inspiration, but sometimes I think that I need to sit back and listen. listening is the only thing left between a situation and resolve.

July 25, 2015

Dear 1989,

I miss you,

I miss the time spent on conversation, mind expansion and the way your sigh gave the inclination that you loved beyond words.

I miss you tremendously

March 2, 2019

The rain was perfect,

It rained, the last day.

It usually falls when I escape from my comfort level.

Another obstacle, an obstacle I don’t mind facing.

I saw your name on aged beams of a deck, often visited by visitors from places where they have not felt a hint of you.

I saw your name when I felt void, when I felt lost concisely and when I found your name in the most unexpected place I felt easy, the ocean was not my fear but became the Adrenaline rush,

enough.

-Ali Al-Arithy

I MISSED HIS SMILE

I MISSED HIS SMILE

        I drove up to the soccer dome on the east and sincere road in Grosse pointe. I walked through the revolving doors, inside I was pressured by the smell of flowers, maybe roses, it was what I hoped it would smell like walking into this wedding. It wasn’t a typical wedding. Extravagant, the turf was soft in a shade of green, and the only other texture was the dance floor. The venue was dim, high ceilings of the insulated dome-like, white, as it resembled white clouds. Classical instruments accompanied the songs of the 80s and the 90s.  The thirty-seven tables were beautifully decorated in the fold and white dust. In white roses and unscented candles that made the flowers look like they were moving.

         Two steps to the left, I found the seating chart, and without skimming any name but mine. I walk further into the venue and the small details of a donut wall, a cappuccino cart, and my favorite corner, the bar. The number four peaked out of the centerpiece. I was seated in the perfect position overlooking the future, the present, and my feelings in the past. I was forced to keep my eyes open, and it’s just sleeping, deprivation — the plate set, juxtaposed to a thin donut bag, and white Jordan almonds in a mesh bag. I saw my reflection in the glass fixture in the center of the table; my hair was out of place. The silk indigo tie was out of place. I was sweating, leaking like rain lurking and forcing what’s dry to be wet; I need to lick my lips…they’re dry.  The discolored plaid blazer was not the original color, but the profusion of sweat, I feel anxious. I had my first sip of the darkness; the only men that have been good to me all begin with the letter “J’. Thank you, James, for coming into my life and making me feel something, to Johnny, I love how powerful you are, that without speaking, you make my throat feel like a campfire, and lastly, Jack, you always come to me when my week is a long one.  I felt the satisfying film on my tongue, burning the back of my throat and churning my empty stomach.

“Hello, Son”

…it was her voice; I haven’t seen her in a while. I felt warm, and it wasn’t the sensation of the alcohol. I stood up immediately; it was her, my second mother. His mother, I missed her, her smile lit up the room. The rest of the family accompanied her. A line of smiles, of resemblance, and the wrinkles that form on your face from smiling too hard.

“I am glad you’re sitting with us.”

We sat down and waited for the groom and the bride to walk in. I listened. I enjoyed listening to anything that will make me forget about how I might feel uncomfortable, how I might feel the pressure of wanting to hug him just a little longer than a friend would when I see him. I don’t mean to; I don’t want to. My thoughts were distracted by the 69 boyz, Tootsie roll started to play, and the announcer began to list every bridesmaid and groomsmen. There he was, smiling. That beautiful, smile, and how good it was to see it again, he seemed lighter.

Suspended in bliss and his eyes were strings, and all I could do was remain bound by his gaze that he hasn’t given me yet.

 Shortly after dinner was served, and I remained in the same spot as the conversations passed right through me. Comprehending, my emotions descending…(Who has the time to rhyme when, and why should I feel forced to rhyme. I feel sublime, I need my vision to align, I will be fine if I have another sip of darkness…you see that was forced)

“You know, I haven’t seen him in a while,” mom says, looking disappointed, “we live in the same house,” she chuckles through the truth.

I stood up after a year, and I walk up to the bridal party, I make contact with him, and he immediately looks into mine as if I communicated to him through telepathy. I grinned, he stood up and excused himself while meeting me in the middle. I grabbed him by his shoulders and greeted him and followed. I had him walk in front of me as I whispered in his ear, “I want you to meet someone” I pulled him to his mother and said “Salin, meet momma, Jean, momma, Jean meets Salin” They chuckled and kissed each other and embraced for what seemed like a minute.

“You look really good.”

I felt my throat close up, the words that I wanted to say were not coming out the way they came out on that drive home a year ago. The vulnerability of that night rushed through my bloodstream; I was in the place again. My mouth dried up and time stopped, I am sure it stopped. I broke out of it, “You look great too,” I exhaled. He looked at me like he used to, he read the lines in my facial expressions that I couldn’t control any longer. His eyes examined my face then my neck; he kept his smile. His smile, the reason for the indulged laughter that I hear when he isn’t there. The vein in my throat filled with a rush of blood, anxiety, to the heating sensation, I sip more darkness. I sip the memory of fixation; of all of the times, I had the sips with him. He made me sip just so the warm from the sweet darkness is the familiar feeling of warmth. when I held his hand that night was the nature of wondering was the only thing of importance

        Dinner was forced on us, an array of wedding food, drenched in gravy, steaming meat that was bleeding. I never understood the excitement over beef. In my peripheral, I couldn’t help but look into his direction. I knew I shouldn’t be looking in his direction, but I wanted to, I needed to remember his chewing, his facial expressions in pretended to eat when he would instead drink. He focused on forcing enough food down just so his plate looks like it has touched. He reached for his darkness and sipped it while laughing hysterically at the bridesmaid’s humor. Our eyes met, and my reaction time failed me, I caught myself watching his every move, obsessed. It seemed like I was looking at him for the first time. I looked away, and something told me that he grinned, an assurance or confirming that I am still capable of loving him. He knew, waiting like an owl in the night, his eyes were talons, my eyes wanted to be vulnerable. The music started again, and the first dance between the bride and the groom was climaxing — the end.

        The dance floor opened up; every guest remained in their seats. I was decent enough to have rhythm. Still, the dark liquor was in every part of my body, I wasn’t myself, and I could only control the part of me that was moving, my legs, into the direction of the dance floor. I found myself surrounded by the people that gravitated towards the dance floor; momma came out of the crowd, her small body and smiling disposition made me feel lighter, just like predicting actual death. I was feeling like death, my body and I lead the crowd into the dark, they were dancing as if my fingers held invisible strings, guiding them to the melodies of the 90s. The group formed a circle, a condensed circle, and I was left in the middle by myself, staring at the encouragement to move and dance. I moved my body the only way I knew I could. I looked around, and the bass line to “No Scrub” by TLC came on, and my face immediately focused on my nose, my nostrils flared like I smelled the inside of a camel’s stomach. The crowd cheered as I rolled up my sleeves about to crave the sounds of Chilli (The band member) and her smooth voice. He peeked from the group, smiling. He was smiling again, heavenly, innocent, memorizing, detailed duty in my direction. He was in the middle with me; everyone waited. I waited. He slowly took off his blazer, shifting the contents of the music, in sync he slithered out of his blazer, shedding the layer off of his body and he raised his sleeves ready to feast on nostalgia. Our bodies moved differently, but it was comfortable, the unfamiliarity of not knowing what his body weight might be was the only thing that bothered me.  Everything was the same, just like he used to be. Our faces were closer, he grinned, then bit his lip, licked his lips, separated them, then closed, he exhaled, inhaled, pursed them, closed them again, and smiled. His lips, the only thing between the sight of everything that I wanted…I think.

        The song ended, and we found each other in each other’s arms, holding each other, our weak limbs from the dance that connected our bodies. He whispered in my ear the words that I would have preferred over that day a year ago. “I am glad you’re here.” I am glad I was there, at that moment sharing the lights and the light pressure from the sound system, grazing over our skin, our pores just the same, filled with infinite vibrations. I missed him; I missed the hands that held the preciousness of words when touch made no sense as a sense. I missed him; I missed his smile. I missed his finesse in being careful, but still able to cross boundaries. I miss the way his brilliance was executed through subtle insecurities; I missed his willingness to be open and I miss when he silently enjoyed himself with me. I missed him; I missed his smile tremendously.

“I Object”

November 3rd, 2019 “I Object”, to all the things that I refuse to reject.

Going in this Sunday was unique; I felt good about going into the WHV. This day I did mostly observations. I stayed behind and watched R, facilitate the class. R, approached the students with ease, he made them feel important, when they mentioned their concerns, he answered their questions.

I took a break

I took a break last weekend.

I thought about it,

actually, I planned it.

It took me 92 days of contemplation,

where I spent the last 15 minutes of every day before the days ends on how I am going to sleep in.

Where 5am is not my only option.

I took this break hoping to relieve my mind of the vastness of deep,

whatever capacity I believe it is.

I took a break from the conscious

decisions and the insensate illusion that I am going to rest the heavy eyes I have in my sockets, like waterfalls frozen perfect glacial, sparkling pillars that hold the might of what keeps going.

I took a break from the constant realization

that nothing is the same from the time I realized the place and time of when it happened last time,

except I cannot tell you about the time before.

I took a break from empty bodies that wander this world and create for themselves limiting, discretion, caution… I cannot be around you.

A break from people bringing religion in a conversation and imposing what they heard instead of what they researched and trying to explain that my thoughts process will make me the gate keeper of hell.

92 days ago,

 I told myself I would rest,

I would stay awake later,

just so I can sleep in,

I want to sleep in,

in fact, I stay awake and count the thoughts and ideas instead of sheep.

A void that could be written down except my fingers are only ten,

and two hands are not enough to make sense of it all.

I took a break last weekend. I contemplated it, I thought about what I would do first when I would wake up after 5am. I would get up and treat my day as if time has no indication, as if the time has no ability to influence how long I would wait for the coffee that would take two minutes to brew after I take 30 seconds to grind the coffee beans.

I took a break last weekend,

It made me wonder how much time it would take for me to forget that the last weekend before I have to be in the same routine is undeniable.

I took a break last weekend, 92 days ago I planned for this, except I am no near accepting this break that I had to plan 92 days ago just so I can wake up on a different side of the bed.

I took a break last weekend.

I thought about it and it took that weekend to make me feel your lack of presence and how no matter how much time I could rest,

I am afraid of the silence that haunts my progress.

I

My Skin Became an Admission Ticket

By: Ali Al-Arithy

In 2014, I traveled to a place I haven’t been to,

A place I am associated with, a place I treat as a person I have not met before, but I know so well.

I cannot help how I feel about you, how I feel about me.

My experience with you is an unfortunate one.

Turbulence, followed by turbulence, a voice in the language of static.

Turbulence with a seizure, indigo skin, lacking of sustenance.

Laughter, to crying, to stillness.

Suspended in air, in the stomach of steel, captive without a sense of freedom.

I landed on land that was kissed by the sun frequently.

A scorching mineral, full of sin that is forgiven,

I landed in the homeland.

A land of milk and honey, full of gold and blue gates with creatures of myth.

A voice like my mother’s

“Ya ibni, lesh ma tethhak”

ابني الحبيب، لماذا لا تبتسم

“Ya ibni, athou-jh min ashou-fak”

ابني الحبيب
أنا الاكتئاب عندما أنظر إليك

My darling son, I become depression when I look at you)

A voice, my mother’s conflicted

I hate myself for making her feel that way.

I hate having her question why I am in the place I am.

I lived surrounded by heat, by heat and sweat, by sweat and cat corpses on the ground,

Beside sustenance.

My body deprived of love, of a commitment to the well-being

My skin finally turns the shade of olive oil and sand.   

My bones protrude, lifeless.

I look like the way I was always meant to look like.

The only time I accepted my skin, it becomes my admission ticket to shrines that make me feel religious without being religious.

Shrines that make you feel included when you have never felt part of anything before,

Not people,

Or a familiar place.

I am not religious; my skin became an admission ticket.

“ISIS looks like you, ISIS looks like me”

ISIS looks like olive oil and sand,

And how unfortunate it is to be the complexion of your land when it is looked down upon by the home you have always lived in.

My skin became an admission ticket

Only I never wanted to be admitted, into something I have never even thought of.

Never thought about, never had relations,

Connected only by the surface of dermis and the touch of the sun

My skin became an admission ticket,

To the culture I shared with another culture, I still feel like I lack the experience to deal with it properly.

A culture I can never be content with.

My skin became an admission ticket,

Only I never wanted to be admitted.

Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair

            The day was pleasant, a warm evening where the sun hid in the west. I had a good feeling about the reading/discussion. She mentioned an array of topics that no one expands upon. Like the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. This conflict is always overlooked in the media, and if it is exposed it is always one-sided. Coming from a home where there is Arabic cable, news sources never sensor the conflict and how brutal it actually is. News sources to be credible should always reveal the obligatory truth. I anticipated this topic just because it has always been a topic that comes up frequently. Sarah Schulman is an eloquent authentic human being. She was able to use her own experiences, and her acceptance of what is around her to form her outlook now. I especially connected with her bringing up the personal experience during her visit to Palestine. Acceptance and allowing, I enjoyed her exposure, and respected her stance on being a human being at the end of any event or occurrence. In her reading I valued the idea of “allowing” and her position on allowing during the answers to the questions posed. “Allowing” has been a subject I have been trying to grasp in my writing. It relates mental health and being able to willingly accept whatever conflict someone internally has to go through.

I was hoping she would expand on chapter six; it was heavily related to the mental state and the psychological frames that could have allowed for the foundation of the other chapters, perhaps. Overall, I enjoyed the night, I felt if it was longer the discussion could have continued after the few hours. There were many instances where the book resonated with the reader and those that were there to listen. To shape a piece of writing in the segments of political and social occurrences was relatable and dignified. The writing felt like a conversation, or even a thinking out loud moment. The wording and ideology behind the topics were exemplary. To be able to advise with personal and structural writing is always impressive.

OutReach #1: “Running in Six inch heels from a shoot out”

6:30pm The seven students walked in one by one. As if they were assigned that exact minute to enter the room. The room was cold, the layers of clothing that the 9 bodies had on and being the tenth I felt my breath form in front of me. For 6 in the evening the darkness outside took over, faint voices and laughter came from the window on the west side of the room. The walls were bland, a few signs and posters on discipline and attitude. There was a slight breeze coming from the direction on the small crack under the door we entered from.

The students were kind, they were full of emotions. it was evident in the writing that we were soon introduced to. Each of us had a copy of the first poem and we read we annotated, and as we analyzed and annotated I felt pressure in my chest. Her work was vulnerable, a balance of negative and positive, a magnet and I was the one attracted to her words. That painted a picture of her vision. The title of the poem were things that she wasn’t fond of. Things that were minor and things that allowed to value her experience’s. S, was flawless in her approach and her disposition gave the room a kind of warmth. We moved on to the next poem and the next one. The students gave their opinions and feedback. Kind words full of kind words and more words that gave the writers the ability to identify the truth and meaning behind their writing. It was an experience, and I was impacted by the depth that was given in their writing. I always talk about seclusion, and how it might be a good place to bring out something that has been quiet. 8:30pm approached and it was time to leave the program building at the WHV facility. The students packed their belongings and bundled up and slowly left the room that was left full. The empty room was different. It was lighter, less tense. My first day at the WHV was a success, in fact my hour drive back home felt necessary, I needed the space and the quiet of the drive back to reflect on that room, the bright white room is where stories walk in and new stories form as you walk out. The students looked forward to it, that motivation was important. Being an educator I always said my drive is as focused and determined as my student.

Last Wednesday I took sometime off, to further explore and be apart of the WHV. I had a slightly rough day, but I knew it would end the way it was supposed to. It was filled with: students, coffee, iced coffee and a black coffee (Because I ran out of this oat-milk creamer that I never use but it had one cup left in it), three meetings about stuff I already knew, and a student that needed help writing a personal narrative. at 2:08pm I left work for the day, I began my drive to the WHV facility in order to take my picture for my entry every other Sunday. The weather was fair, a mixture of sun and rain, some clouds and then a gust of wind. I walked into the east wing of the facility. That is were HR was located, I walked into the dry building that had no such thing as white noise, no sound from the monitor. The glass doors were tainted, no reflection as I placed my right hand on the door to pull to be greeted by the first officer behind a desk that only his eyes would meet my eyes eventually. I asked him about the photo capture and where I should go, he was friendly he stood up, shorter than I thought he was, he took me behind his desk into metal doors that looked like they would be the same doors to the back hallways in a mall where anyone could hide from tornados. The cubicles behind those doors looked heavy, they were a new grey and anyone that could peaked through and made eye contact with a smile as I walked through the maze of cubicles to an open space that smelled like coffee and a subway that smelled like Italian dressing. I waited patiently in the lobby, it was quiet again, I was hoping for elevator music, or any music at that point. Any sound that could release tension. I wasn’t tense, just cold. A friendly voice was behind the wall, “I will be right there baby”, she brightened up the room, her smile behind burgundy lip stick. Her freckles still peaked out of the foundation that she perfectly synchronized with her skin. She looked at me from the top of her glasses. Her red sweater was oversized and she looked as if she had been working there for a long while. She grabbed her camera and took me back to the place where pictures were taken. I filled out some information about myself and she took several pictures that didn’t save because they camera wasn’t on. I helped her turn on the camera and I took off my glasses just in case they made me redo the picture. I was told I would be contacted soon.

Five on Fiction

            That Saturday I woke in a daze; I woke up to not only a break of from the long week but early. Who knew sleeping in could be so difficult?

I finished all of my errands and made my way down to Eastern, I looked forward to the Five on Fiction event because I was excited to listen to Amanda Goldblatt speak on her work Hard Mouth. The fictional story was not what I am used to, and for that I think I enjoyed it. Usually I love reading about a character with abilities or some sort of floating anything (Outside of a plane). The writers were poised and articulate. They were confident, and you could tell just by listening to their passionate words about all the things they have become passionate about. Words!

Words, to create images and then you are forced to relate to the character/characters. There wouldn’t be a connection if you don’t feel inclined to do that. I enjoyed listening to the authors speak. I have always been less inclined from learning too much about the writer, in fact I try to stay away from any information concerning the author just because I don’t want to know that it relates to them. It might take away from my own position on it.

I always enjoyed fiction writing, it’s a style that I want to be challenged with. I am always running toward and away from poetry. I am inspired to indulge in fiction, I want to create something out of nothing and be able to allow it to make sense to a reader.

(Being a pen and ink in pages…I am not sure what material the pages are made from)

I wrote that down during the five on fiction event. There was a feeling of comfort that eased the room. Reading Amanda’s work and hearing her speak about it, was rewarding. It makes me feel better that there is no pressure to writing a lengthy piece of work. The longest piece I have written was a short story comprised of 27 pages (haha). I am not sure if it’s patience or just the reason to keep going with the flow of writing that prevents me from doing so. All in all, I enjoyed the five on fiction event. I was glad to be in the same room with Eastern legends.

Preparation for OutReach #1

September 29th: Preparing for outreach (Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility)

Sunday the 29th of September was gloomy. It’s actually my favorite weather. Driving to Ypsilanti I was anxious to meet with Rob, Adam and David.  We met at Cultivate, I enjoyed Cultivate. Mostly because it was a coffee shop that can hold more than ten people. I walked on from the soak of the heavy rain and I sat on a stool at 4:00pm. I waited for minutes before Rob’s voice took me out of the daydream, Cultivate was playing Korean R&B music.  

It was a good experience to sit with Eastern Legends, we sat around the picnic table as the rain continued outside. The coffee shop was slightly dimmed, and the perfect light with the natural light from the window was the perfect weather to read the poems of some of the inmates. I didn’t know what to expect from these workshops, and the nerves mixed with anxiousness clouded my mind from accepting the work. Adam came in with his leather bag and pulled out a laptop as we all did. The yellow manila folder was filled with composition paper from the work that had been worked on from the workshop. Each writer was as passionate as the next. Their words resonated. We were only required to scribe, and correct grammatical mistakes as well as recommend alternative words. I couldn’t help but to be involved in their pieces as I was trying to type the poems up. This process was fulfilling. I have not been to the prison yet, but knowing that the poems came from these workshops is nothing short of impressive. The subjects were the most satisfying. Subjects like connection, relationships and even the emotional capacity for death and loss was inspirational.

I look forward to working with the women of WHV. To be able to have a glimpse of the capability of creating these pieces is exciting. The preparation is one of the components that I am looking forward to, I deal with high school students and I am curious to learn how to interact and be able to teach adults. I also look forward to working with the Eastern alumni, it’s inspiring to hear more about their successes after achieving their MFA’s in creative writing. It makes me just that much hopeful. I am glad I am in this program.

Sunday, October 2019

At 5pm we met at the lobby in the west wing of the WHV facility. The lobby was full of creative energy, the bodies that stood waiting individually emanated a presence. They were there, with words. I walked up to the front desk where the officer pulled my information up, he happily sighed that I was part of the database. The group then went through security six at a time and we were thoroughly checked and then cleared and we proceeded to the program building. Stepping foot into the yard we were greeted with two walls of blue and brown and the walls greeted and smiled and welcomed the group.

               We walked through and walked into the programs building. Traveling through the hallway, before passing the women’s restroom we called out, collectively “Male in the area”. Walking into the auditorium, it was dim, the subtle light illuminates the stage area. There were about 150 seats, the stage had a podium and we positioned 9 seats that over looked the empty seats that were soon to be filled.  The auditorium slowly filled with blue and brown, voices laughing, anticipating, and hopeful. They were ready, the front row was reserved for the thriving thirteen. They seemed nervous, but ready to use their words that they have been working on to change.

               Encouragement, the crowd of blue and brown were considerate, they were motivating and encouraging and ready for what they were not used to. ( R) went up to the podium, we sat behind him in the nine chairs anticipating. ( R) explained the night, and the different phases. He, A, R and M rotated and introduced each of the writers. They were personal introductions that they felt confident about. Each student expressed a subject, an aspect of their lives that had the sea of blue and brown, frown, facial expressions from surprised, squinting in agreement, call and response, it was a church for words of affirmation. The thriving thirteen were proud.

               It was then the visitors turn, they weaved in and out telling, reciting poems that they hold close. The perspective from the outside was received well. Facial expressions of acceptance and ultimately praise. It was my turn, I was nervous. I was on the stage with royalty, from the thriving thirteen to the visitors there was not one person I didn’t admire. I was called to the podium, I wanted to read AIR a poem I have held close to me. I inhaled air and exhaled AIR and I read through it the way I intended. I heard snaps, to praise words like “Oh yes”, “I know that’s right” and after the last word I inhaled air and exhaled into a standing ovation. I was emotional, I felt the empowering and overpowering roar and that was confirmation. I always go into nervousness when I read any of my poems. I sat in my chair and the applause was louder, and the sea of blue and brown kept repeating “AIR” “AIR” the whole time. Tears were collecting on the edges of my eyes. It was one of the best nights of my life.  

“Stop searching for perfect, now darling, you don’t have to try so hard”-Jessie Ware

Days of the week, Sunday and the lady in the wheel chair with the pink metallic jacket:

The weather on Sunday has been consistent. My week was full of work and even though the break was helpful with rest there still seemed to be this underlining vibration of anticipation. Anticipation!!

Anticipation has been the subject that has been coming up on multiple occurrences. Although I am not too sure about what it is that I am looking forward to. I arrived at the WHV at 5:45pm. Driving the Selene roads they were dark, the only light came from the my cars lights. I signed in and the grateful security guard checked me in and I waited for Addy to join me in the lobby to go in. We went through check in and the usual walking through the metal detectors, checking our mouths, behind the ears and taking off our socks for a thorough check. We walked in the yard through the rain and women in blue and orange greeted us as we made our way to the programs building. We signed in and we entered the room that is usually cold.

The women began to enter, they sat down and waited for us to begin the lesson. The women shared their experiences within the week and shared their writing. It was a week of writers block and the Writersbloc. The lack of inspiration was a common urge throughout the room.

We delved into N.A’s poem “Untitled”, This poem was full of images. The connection between her and this poem was sweet, a poem with the intention that she has placed herself and her experiences in this short piece. The vivid reactions in the room were expected…Until N.A read the revised. With the expansion in description and criticized feedback from the women in the Writersbloc.

We then went into discussing “friday” by Anna Mendelssohn. The three bodies full of images, the feminine perspective and the roles of literature. The students had much time on this poem. Analyzing this poem, the women were excited to share their positions on the poem.

I have been persistent on free writing. The women expressed that they wanted to write more within the sessions and not just outside. The past two weeks I have been finding words or phrases that I can create prompts from. The poem by Anna M, being the day of the week, I asked the women to write a poem describing the events in a day of the week. The women were given 15 minutes to come up with poems. Walking around I was able to look over their shoulders to find out that their excitement behind the writing assignment was what they needed to leave the writers block. I asked the women to share and they were full of laughter, smirks and many chuckles echoed the hot room that was usually cold. We ended the session with words of encouragement and the room was quiet again.

The moment of this session that I could look back on is that the smiles from faces that felt accomplished meant so much.

I also wrote a poem in free write:

Monday:

4:30am: “I give my all” She sings to me, sings when strawberries and blueberries blended together in all the ways words can be comprised.

From a two day weekend, 6:30am reminds me how much time I have before I am consumed with hallways full of words..I do not expect from students.

10am: a bell, electronic, blinking to me how late, I am at not being on time, when I feel behind from progress.

The stomping of boots, minutes turn to seconds, my eyes heavy, remind: grocery shop, apply deodorant, move my eyes away from time. Pick up coffee, black to my lips.

9pm: remind, remind me of songs that I think about when I am with you. 10 minutes, it’s time to sleep, I don’t want to look at you now, maybe in a few hours. I want to hold…you. I hope to hear your sweet song in the morning.

Orientation at WHV: October 13, 2019 (MALE IN THE AREA)

Orientation at WHV: October 13, 2019 (MALE IN THE AREA)

The sunny day felt frigid as the wind shifted the seasons. I arrived at the correctional facility and I was excited to enter. I waited in the lobby at 4:15pm. The lobby was cold, the sun that seeped through the high windows didn’t seem to warm up the area I was sitting in. The area was quiet, the water fountain in the lobby was loud, then the sound turned off and the only sound that echoed through the lobby was the sound of the gates that let the visitors in and out.

4:30: Mrs. S.H met us in the lobby, she instructed us to leave are belongings in a locker. The other volunteers and me were patted down by the first officer. We were escorted and asked to go through the metal detector and to take off our shoes and socks for a thorough check. We walked through to receive our PPD (Personal protection device) it’s a device for the volunteer’s safety. We walked through the facility and made it outside, the walk way was steady, the grass rippled as wind fluffed it. We walked towards the program building as we were greeted by the walking inmates. We walk into the building. I was introduced to one of the participants in the poetry workshop, Dorothy was gentle, she walked, counted the steps that she hasn’t taken yet. We were introduced to our point officer.

4:45: we were asked to sit in the room to watch a short film that expanded on procedures and guidelines in the prison. The video was a converted VHS video into a DVD disc. The video had the nostalgic static, ribbons of static noise that took over the screen. Shifting the antennas in order to find that quality. The video was much older than expected.

-Feathered bangs

-What looks like a crotched blazar that didn’t move with the body language?

-Static strips moving upwards on the screen

Finally, the video was over, 6:05pm came around and orientation was over. We walked toward the restroom for the inmates. We were instructed to shout out “MALE IN THE AREA” whenever walking past the area. I was by the officer and he told me about what happens in the facility.

“Like nothing I have seen before” seemed to be the following sentence after every description. He was pleasant, he was friendly with all the inmates and addressed them by “Mrs.” and “Ms.”. It was admirable, he treated them with a profound respect. 6:30 was approaching and I stayed behind to meet with Rob and Adam.

I felt comfortable; familiarity was the sense. The dynamic of the programs building didn’t feel like an inmate/prison setting. All of the inmates were treating it as any occupation, there were many roles in the building. Some did housekeeping, a few were escorting and getting the rooms ready for the evening programs. It was comforting to know that it wasn’t just a typical prison.

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