Spring Creek. Round Two…

•March 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It’s 5:40 right now, and I can’t sleep. My head’s sort of all over the place. Melissa, Rik, and I went in for the last two days, and I’d have to say the trip was a success. Guitar Dan Lesperance went with us on this trip, too, but took a spill on that nasty Seward ice, and spent a good portion of our first day’s visit in the hospital getting x-rays. Too bad he couldn’t make it in with us, but his health is the most important thing. I truly hope he’s feeling better…

I came home to the news that John Olmsted passed away this morning. Melissa and I were very lucky to spend a little time with him on our visit to California, and it’s obvious that he’s going to be missed by folks in his community.

As a bit of an exercise to sort of treat these demons running around in my head,  robbing me of sleep, I just sort of sat at my computer and wrote. Not in any form, or about any particular portion of this most recent experience, but just letting it flow, I guess.

Here’s the result….:

 

It’s been a stark few days.

Strength. It’s a perspective. And perspective shapes everything.

This trip into Spring Creek was a good one. At times, soothing, challenging, harsh, and real.

The more I try to explain my reasons for being there, the less I actually have any idea. I can’t really explain it. Is it for me? For them?

Am I just banking some good karma for later?

It’s a musical flashlight. I know it’s dark in there. And I know that flashing that light around is bound to reveal some wicked creatures, but amongst the black spiders there are children. Children without lights themselves. Scared and cold, with clueless dreams and tales as the main things to keep them warm.

I find myself having unorthodox conversations. About time.

See, perspective means that time is different to me than it is to you then it is to them. Of course, it’s precious. And it’s a wicked bitch when you’re just waiting for a moment. Sitting at that same table. Hands in the same place. More coffee in that stagnant mug. Dealing with the days. Biding your time.

See, my time is the same. Our clocks match up. Our calandars depict symetrical daily patterns, but he’s in a box. Waiting. Xbox and cards. Snoring and corndogs. Icky touches.

A horribly sqealing door to the gym. Cuts through the air, demanding that you take notice every time it’s used.

The beach is covered in snow, and the Alaskan tans will be paining before long.

The glacier is close, and hovering. The mountains couldn’t care any less. The trees up high are held fast to the most precarious edges, and althought the mountain is slanted, the trees all reach for the same direction. A tree’s only got one shot to plant it’s roots, and the hillside tree that gets too big is hurtling towards the inevitable tumble.

Tree scree.

How many trees did he see? How many winds did he stop to hear? To feel…

Man. That sun and that water. That touched daughter. That cycle.

The amount of obvious mental deficiency is staggering. Dangerous? Sure, but you’re fooling yourself if you think that they’re the only ones that can hurt you. And after all, why would they?

I talked with a man about walking with murderers. Told him I’d punched in the face. Does that make me a puncher? Does that mean I’m bound to punch again. Should all who come near me shrink in fear and be ready to parry my inevitable blow?

Sure. Like that will help…

It’s only a few gates, and a very nice lady at the front desk. We saw some Johovah’s Witness affiliated men go in, too. I’d like to think that what they do and what we do are different, but when you break it down, we’re sort of after the exact same thing.

Souls.

But I don’t preach too much. I strive for short, poignent remarks. And realness. I’ve been thinking of Spoon, and thank him for my new perspective on an old notion. My biggest gift is my presence, and my willingness to be REAL.

My guitar’s just a flashlight in a dark place.

The politics are more evident. He boycotted our visit to teach the warden a lesson. To show that he was unhappy with his lack of input.  He was not missed, and the only one that recieved punishment. He was left behind, but by his own choice. The warden’s heart wasn’t broken.

I guess the greater the confines, the more important the lines and borders we create and cling to. A man’s got to hold on to something, right?

It’s a tough place for leaders. Most don’t want to draw too much attention to themselves. But they do look good with their sunglasses dangling, and their fashion accessories MP3s.

See, I can talk about trick niggas, hash dealas, bitches and hos on my dick, ice dripping off my collar, feel me right, don’t sweat the light, too.

But I choose not to.

I strive for the find of what needs to come out of me. I’ll package it later, pack the elevator with boses and stands on a cart that says in worn out stencil…. “education.”

You need to be a part of “education” to have access to the computer, or the teacher, or the visiting music group. You’ve got to get patted down when you leave the library. You can’t own a CD, and the guards don’t know how to use the metal detector.

The notion of a jolly warden doesn’t sit well with the “I’ve seen Shawshank” crowd, but it sits well with me. As Big Mike would say, “he’s PRO-HUMAN BEING.” That sums it up well. His job is largely budgetary, and holding that invisible line.

Prison is punishment incarnate. Whatever you want gets dangled in front of you daily. Wealth? Please. Fairness? please.

Did you know that they can only order things from one catalog. Monopolies are bad. This one is the worst. They do have jobs, sweeping the gym, washing the forks, doing all the dirty work for next to nothing, and a 10 dollar pair of shoes costs 150 in shipping. No joke. Short and curlies, and they make riches off of perfecting the squeeze.

But these guys ain’t saints. They’ve got the right to make bad decisions, and I have yet to meet an incarcerated mourner. It’s amazing what a man can put up with when he’s got no other choice.

Watchtower. We watch YOU!!!

There was one woman that didn’t have a smiley heart. She goes out and smokes a lot. She must, or we just happened to catch her out there 4 of the 6 times we were at the front door. Didn’t mind scolding us for a photo, even though that’s not what she’s there for.

I don’t tell people how to clap at my shows. Not my concern…

19 days now. I’ve spent portions of 19 entirely different days of my charmed life spending time with inmates. I’m still eager to do more, but am starting to realize my limits. I’m not interested in these guys coming to stay on my couch based on a relationship developed in such a strange reality.

Dude’s got to find their own flashlight, but I’m starting to understand, for real this time, that some of them won’t ever get it together, and there has to be an alternative.

It’s also obvious to me that one day, one of these fellows will be at a show, and I’ll get to introduce him to my friends, and my life outside of the prison work. I’m anxious about that. Wanting to keep the flame lit, but to myself. I’m actually ashamed of my nature to protect myself and forgo the unconditional love.

I’m not as open as it might appear, but again, that’s perspective. To some, maybe I’ve done enough, but it’s my deficiencies that are defining to me now.

Here, presently 4:51 in the morning, and agian, I can’t sleep.

This is MY therapy. My unwinding. My hope looking for what to call itself. My displayed cliche. My non-prison issue shoes, that started leaking yesterday. I’ll shed them, probably send them under the Earth, to slowly rot with other consumer discards. And my new shoe will someday be old.

Again. Perspective.

I find myself wondering what type of prisoner I’d be. Which corner I’d have sat in today, which little click or group I’d be drawn to, or which ravens would come to perch on my shoulder. How would I speak? And who to? I heard the word Nigger so many times these last two days it actually lost some of it’s weight with me. I hate the word, but that which you face daily becomes routine, and hate, by nature, can not be routine. That’s something different. Just a line in the sand.

Would I be a leader? A quiet man just doing my time? Would I reflect on my decisions, or play Xbox for hours every day? I wonder how much they have to give to have that privelidge.

Craig told us that it was a tense time for a while, because Ad Seg was at capacity, and a full hole means no hole for the newly poor mannered. If the threat of punitive measures is no threat at all, chaos creeps into the idle minds, and the testings of the system increase.

but the system is the house, can change the rules, and will keep it’s dominance. So now, there are two holes, and the punishments are as regular as they need be. Again.

I’d probably elect to do the drugs, if they’d let me. I’m weak that way. I’d get to some ridiculous high levels of tetris, and brag to my celly as if it was an actual accomplishment, which maybe it is…

Again. Perspective.

I’d try not to fight. I’d strive for friendship. I’d dream of every visitation. I’d try to learn to paint, and I’d relish my one hour a week that I’m allowed to hold a guitar, in that classroom, with other players, who I probably would not want to jam with, and who I’d try to drown out. I’d be reluctant, and maybe give it up all together, because time apart makes the time together so much MORE, and I’d be striving for less, as my mechanism. It elect to be as numb as I could be…

I wouldn’t take up Jesus. I’d be a Jesus. Those a Jehovah’s are good for some, so I’ll respect them, but their truth seems SO misguided to me. So unreal. Faker than fake.

If it were true all the time, then why do “christians” hate so much, and so hard? Why would they care about others’ beliefs? What’s it to them?

I’ll tell you. It’s safety in numbers, and the more folks that buy into your horseshit, the easier it is for you to buy. That many people can’t be wrong, right?

Universal truth isn’t true universally.

Again. Perspective.

I love the holy that truly preach love and tolerance, but the supposedly holy that find relief of their sexual frustration in little boys, layered up with an endless stream of the same sad story, the THOUSANDS of abused covered up for the good of the church. It’s NOT holy. It’s wicked, and even worse because it’s in your face, dishonest. This man gets to absolve ME? Please.

fuck the church. The truly kind hearted exist within and without. The book is just a guide, it’s not a ticket.

So no. I wouldn’t go to chapel to pray, but I would go to sit with myself and be quiet. to be with other men that are there to be with themselves, quiet.

You’d have to take advantage of the random sanctuary. Marty’s hat. Spoons mama goose. A folder of words. Actually letting politics roll off my back. A new….

Perspective.

So I still don’t know, I guess. The most honest answer I can give when asked why I do it is: because I can. I can. I can be a light. I can share my time, and my presence. I can be real. I can play a little music, and remind the men that they’re men. I offer to help, not by doing anything, but by caring enough to try.

A lot of these guys will be getting out, and spilling back into my society. I want them to be accountable, and to man up. Decide to stay out of prison, and follow through.

I want society to take an honest look at what they think of the system. Not the Shawshank system, and not the MSNBC locked up, but to look into the heart of a man that has to revisit his crime daily, and look other criminals in the face, daily.

the mountains are so striking. Actually unbelievable, but the mods are equally harsh and still. The contrast actually seems to take on a mocking form. It laughs at us. At them.

The fact that such a huge portion of the population has an intimate knowledge of the system, contrasting with the huge portion of the population that has no fucking idea. Not because they don’t know, but they don’t bother to wonder.Their mind is made up, without any trial.

That’s the other part of what we do. We speak to society on the prisoner’s behalf. Our lives are voluntarily related to prison. That gives us a bit of credibility. We offer our ideas to our peers. Our experience. Our drained and tired ramblings.

We offer to the men…

Our perspective.

Walking Song. Remix…

•February 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Something pretty amazing happened on this most recent trip to visit with the fellows in Folsom Prison. On the first day, I got a chance to talk with Harry Grant, a fellow I’d gotten to know on our first visit a year before. He’s a poet. A pretty amazing poet. The first day last year, he read us a poem called “Watchtower,” which was the first real poetry I got to hear from the mouth and mind of an inmate, and it had a pretty profound effect on me, so I made sure to tell him that day after the workshop. We sort of struck up a mutually respectful, hesitant friendship. He gave me a copy of the “Watchtower,” which I have to admit still sort of haunts me.

 

The last day of our visit last year was pretty amazing. To end the day, we played Melissa’s song Friends, and all the fellows stood up, sang along and clapped, even Slim, a man confined to a wheelchair. He couldn’t stand by himself, but two of his friends helped him steady himself on his feet.

 

One of the two fellows was Harry Grant.

 

I had one of my CDs that I wanted to gift to Harry, but he left the room before I had the chance, so I left it with another friend, asking him to pass it on to Harry.

 

It turns out that he did get the CD…

 

This year, we started with a performance in the library. Lots of the fellows we’d worked with in the past were there, and it was almost a relief to make it back to the place we’d thought of so often, with men we’d remembered daily since the last go around. Harry was there in the back, all smiles…

 

At the end of the session, we got to talk one on one with the guys, and Harry and I had a great little conversation, ending with him asking me a favor. He asked if it would be all right with me if he went back to his cell that night and wrote his own verse to one of my songs, the Walking Song. Of course, I said I’d be honored, and gave him my blessing.

 

The next day, our session took place in the AIC room. A drab room really, depressing if not for all the beauty created within. Harry came in and I asked him if he’d managed to write a verse. I felt a bit deflated when he told me he did not. Then he floored me when he told me he didn’t write a verse, he in fact wrote FIVE OF THEM…

 

The words he added were specifically designed to be performed in this little room, for this particular group of folks, on this particular day, and he couldn’t have nailed it any better, as far as I’m concerned. The way he’d worked it out was for me to sing a verse, and then to just play the guitar while he did his brand of spoken word poetry in between my verses. I think the first time we ever played it together will forever be my favorite version ever….

 

But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself….

 

The Following is a copy of the song that he gave me that day, word for word….

 

 

 

 

 

Jan. 7th, 2011

 

Walking song (remix)

by Harry and Spiff

 

 

Silly little crossroads where I’m at

There’s no one else around

No place to hang my hat

And footsteps don’t make sound

 

‘Til I walk…

 

 

My little feet, use to cross the street

When Moms told me not to

Between her warning and this morning

I feel I got to

Crossroads call me, first name basis

I sit and ponder

I put one foot in front of the other

And end up over yonder

No one knows me, some one show me

I need that horizon

My stick or my cane

I came up lame

Nah, somebody’s lyin’ (I think I’ll walk)

 

 

 

There’s nothing special here nor there

there’s nothing new to be found

But sits a tingle in the air

I think I’ll poke around

 

And I think I’ll walk…

 

 

Something new to be found, on common ground

Spiff gave me a shot

To come up here with em’, show I was listening

Whether you like it or not

His whole CD, was cooler than me

11 tracks, Shan gra lee

All his songs are in my key

$12.95…I got it for free

But the tingle in the air won’t cease

I know that now

So to beat the cold, I stomp my feet

And walk around (I need to walk)

 

 

I’ve seen mountains and bright, bright stars

And pretty girls without clothes

I like whiskey and old guitars

I’ve got faith in those

 

That’s why I walk…

 

 

We end up in cities where the music leads us

Traveling mercy

And crash on couches where the locals need us

We’re ll thirsty

And go through gates where the homegrown feed us

And sing song of praise to a 4-yard Jesus

But in the last interview no one believed us

So we got up and walked (Mmm hmmm)

 

 

Lightning flies cross autumn skies

Knocking dead leaves around

windy breeze, cemetery trees

Where folks lie dead in the ground

 

They don’t walk…

 

 

One Soul performance, gigantic, enormous

The trees and the forest

The song and the chorus

Michelle, Mel, Shawn & Rik

Corrina Delgado Makes me sick

 

I fell right through this deja vu, I’m in it for good

Last song last year, was loud and clear, remember Slim Duce stood

I’ll be your legs don’t sweat that, that’s what friends do

My name, is the human cane…how do you do

Autumn skies and windy breeze

Caught me in thought

But the yard went down, and that’s the only time

That I don’t walk (I won’t walk)

 

 

Someday I’ll Sunday, wife and the kids

dog tied outside

But now’s for the campfire and the open road

Fixing to like the ride

 

And I aim to walk…

 

 

I’m thankful for the chance to stand

Center stage with Spiff my man

Heard one song became a fan

Anyone in the house by a show of hands

Well keep your hands up high for Jim

Wouldn’t be in here if it wasn’t for him

Shout out to his staff and all his kin

Let me jump back and do my spin

 

But on the serious side, let me slow my roll

And tip my hat to our guest One Soul

Happy Anniversary, one year old

Bundle up that baby, Alaska’s cold

From there to here a mighty leap

It’s been a pleasure to hear you speak

Come back any time we’re here all week

I’ll bring the lyrics, you bring the beat

 

School’s still in session, pick up your chalk

I’d build a bridge to hear you talk

Righteous food down to the stalk

Take off those fancy shoes and walk (I need to walk)

 

 

 

 

“Spiff my man….. we did it.

And I’ll never forget it!!

 

God bless Us!”

Harry Grant….

Last two days at New Folsom….Shawn Zuke’s version!

•January 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It took me some time to get this finished, having beach distractions definately became a factor…..Blessings and Aloha!

Our inner Child….Early Wednesday morning, I participated in Katy’s therapeutic finger painting class in the EOP classroom.  None of the guys knew that this was going on and I saw that change was not easy for some of them.  All but two of the men went with it and one of those two joined in later.  I loved her opening story the most, sharing with us how she had the opportunity as a midwife to stare in the eyes of many newborns, and see the same thing.  She witnessed the light and purity of the source of love in their eyes.  As Katy explained how we are born perfect and whole and forget that aspect of ourselves through dysfunctional experiences that create self doubt of our connection and divine potential, the men gave her their complete attention.

Katy gave the liberty of letting our emotions flow as we were touching, scratching, digging into our finger painting exercise.  There were enough materials that all of One Soul got to play as well.  Within seconds one of the inmates slapped his hands onto his palette and started giggling like a small child.  It was very sweet.

At the end of the class we all shared our artwork and what it meant to us.  I have nothing to compare what it is like when it is just Jim or any other of the clinicians, but he told us how some of these men rarely participated in the programs, and this particular exercise was a break though for some of them.  FYI – that is a common comment I heard throughout the 8 days we were inside.  One of the inmates shared how sometimes he would not leave his cell for months at a time because he was bi-polar.  It was the very best that he had felt in a very long time.  It might have been years for all I know.  Over the whole week I saw at two different occasions men on suicide watch.

That afternoon we went and sang for men in the PSU…It was very intense and heavy and I am still processing it and trying to figure it out.  I do know that some or all of these men are considered psychotic and are all on heavy medication.  They are never directly touched and are kept locked when in contact with humans at all times.  They spend at least 22 hours a day in their cells alone.  I heard a story of one of them reaching out and saying that they feel like they are becoming an animal.  It definitely brought me down.

Our last day inside and we got the permission to film inside the Arts in Corrections classroom of C yard.  What was so amazing about this opportunity was the chance to document how profoundly the program has changed inmate’s lives.  One story that stuck in my mind was of a man who spent the first six years of his sentence miserable and suicidal.  He picked up a guitar and started playing it in the corner of a noisy and chaotic gym.  From that experience he learned how to disregard the outside clamor and go inside of himself which begin his internal healing process.  From there he started taking music and art classes, which he is now exceptionally gifted in both areas and contributes these skills as a teacher himself to other inmates.

He has no attachment to getting out of prison, because he does not want to become distracted from his purpose of spreading the message of inner peace to other prisoners.  Inmates that are angry and hostile because that is all they know, continuously building walls that serve as an emotional barrier of protection inside an antagonistic environment.  One of his projects is a Newsletter that is sent out quarterly with inmate submitted poetry, lyrics, artwork, book reviews, music reviews, and short stories.  I’ve read a few issues and they are very beautiful!  I am going to see if I can submit something of my own….Anyway one of the intentions of these newsletters is to get them distributed within every cell of the prison with anticipation that it inspires the men to connect in some way in discovering their own artist within.

The following is an excerpt from the very first edition of the newsletter’s editorial.  It was written by a man who envisioned the newsletter, but died at a young age of 36, before it came to fruition.  Thanks to his beloved friends, his dream lived on!

“Arts-In-Correction, the philosophy behind it, believes inmates can change their lives for the better;  that providing us with the tools through instructional ‘Arts’ workshops inmates can develop a creative process that nurtures a foundation of personal growth and self-esteem.  The ‘Arts’ become a conduit for empowerment allowing one to delve inward to those regions we avoid.  Through self-expression comes self-awareness, and with this awareness a sense of responsibility.”

I am so grateful for all that Jim Carlson, New Folsom Prison, the men inside, and my One Soul family, for enriching my life with their creative divine souls, finding love in the darkest of places.  For myself, there is a newfound sense of responsibility within my own community.  Going deep within and shining that light of my own self awareness and sharing it with those that are ready to receive.  I look forward to playing a role in developing an “Arts in Corrections” within my home state of Alaska and with One Soul!

January 28, 2011 / Michelle

•January 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

After fasting for 4 days I ventured out into my community for the local open mic.  It felt surreal, like I’m not fully back here yet.  It was fun and felt good to sing and jam and play with friends.  Music is Medicine.  Came home and couldn’t sleep.  It’s nearly New Moon and  I found out today that the Moon in Sagitarius trined Jupiter in Aries in the middle of the night.  That normally wouldn’t mean a thing to me except for the description beneath the headlines “This is a lot of fire and air.  This is passion, creativity at it’s highest….”    Maybe that explains why I was awake until 4 am with new songs pouring through me like a river.  For the first time since coming home from the New Folsom Project, I was able to process and move some energy that until now, I couldn’t even think about.  What a gift to be able to work with those feelings, energies and thoughts through musical and prose expression.    I read Melissa’s last blog and she captured perfectly in one paragraph what I was capturing in song last night.  The words are different.  The feeling is the same.   Like Melissa says “there are some brothers and sisters out there who can’t…” express fully what is in their heart.  It puts my feet to the fire and makes me want to step up and express – because I can.   There are times when we all feel something that we can’t express.  We either don’t know how to express it in words and action or it isn’t safe to express what we feel.  That’s okay.  I’m learning – still – when it is appropriate to express what I feel and when I need to control the emotions that would otherwise pull me down in a turbulent drop of white frothing water.  Been there in a kayak.  Been there in my own heart.   It’s those feelings that I channel into music, into writing.  Into Art.   I think of all the people in the world who have not been shown they have that same channel.  An Artist is not someone who is born with that title.  It is someone who creates Art.  Someone who allows themselves creative artistic expression.  How different would this world be if every single human being on earth were told as children they “can” create.  Were told they “are”  made of light.  Were told they “are” worthy of love.  In concept it seems so simple.  Love = Love.        Fear = Anger = Violence = Separation = Depression = Oppression.    How do we heal that?

I’m laughing as I write because an image just crossed my mind…… all the leaders of the world – warring and peaceful – sitting at tables in Katy’s painting workshop.  Hands flying on paper as they paint with their hands while their feelings flow freely to the page. Or painting their dreams on Forest Fair badges with watercolor paint.  I imagine them laughing and giggling and showing each other their pieces of work. Pieces of Art.  I want to live in that world.  I will do my part to be that change.  I will write, sing, paint, dance (salsa anyone??)  and share with others who are willing.   Are you?   Will you?

~Michelle

By: Melissa Mitchell – 1/26/11

•January 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

As I sit here tonight in my cozy house, daughter sleeping in the next room, I am filled with gratitude.  I look back on the last few weeks, the last few years and my heart is filled with a deep sense that I am right where I belong in this moment.  All the times I’ve tried to be what I’m supposed to be, looking outside of myself for the answers, never brought me to this place.  Only following my heart has allowed me to see my potential.  I have been blessed with many teachers disguised as friends, enemies, judges and prisoners and the one thing they’ve all taught me is that authenticity is a gift that sometimes comes in the most unlikely packages.  No one is perfect in this world.  We are all here to learn something about ourselves and how we fit in to the world around us.  We are often placed in situations that challenge us to feel more deeply and discover what it truly means to be human.  To go where we are called and simply allow life force to flow through us so that we may be of service.  I am a humble servant in this beautiful and sometimes crazy life and though I am in awe of all our differences, I am mostly amazed by our similarities.  We are all seeking love.  We may look for it in different ways, express it in different ways, and even ultimately feel it differently but the fact remains that not much thrives with out it.  Tonight the love I feel within is coursing through my veins, out my fingers onto this keyboard, out of my eyes and onto this kitchen table and I am grateful to be able to express exactly what is in my heart at this moment!  ~LOVE~  I know some brothers and sisters out there who can’t, either because it isn’t safe or they simply don’t know how, so it is for them that I shed these tears, not out of sorrow but out of gratitude for the ability to unabashedly love!!  Thank you to all who battle the shadows everyday and emerge brighter than before.  You are all my teachers and I am grateful to be on this journey with you.  Peace, Love, Light, Truth, Hope!!!!!  Mel

 

 

6 inch valley down the middle of my soul…

•January 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

1-12-11   6:37 AM. California…

Spiff’s post…
Finally let some tears fly last night. We were watching a slide show of all Ellie’s photos, and it was the pictures of Harry and me that set me off. First tear sort of surprised me, and fell out of my eyes and off my face before I could catch it. I’m pretty sure it fell onto Rik’s arm, because he wiped it off, but didn’t say anything about it. Oops. I kept the rest to myself. No more dousing anyone…

The life one leads while doing this work is so weird. I went back into Ad Seg again yesterday, twice. Once with 6 of us passing out packets of joy, and then again with just Rik and myself. The guys in there honestly appreciated it, and yesterday, I was actually able to sort of look through the “thereputic modules” and just see the men. A couple of which look like bad news, but a couple of which also just look like guys in cages.

So we go from singing to guys in the prison within the brutal prison, to coming home, and getting a visit from our “landlord,” who brought along his 18 year old son and his son’s girlfriend, and we passed the guitar around for a while last night. Her name is Mackenzie, and she’s written a grip of songs as well. She’s good. Young, but good. I hope she doesn’t get ahead of herself in her music career. Stay true to yourself…

But the thought that you have to walk between worlds so much when you’re doing this work. You have to walk amongst lifers and men that have done bad things, and then to come home and sing to an innocent, impressionable, talented 18 year old. The days on a trip like this stack up on top of each other.

I pulled myself out of the beautiful circle to sit on the steps with a pad of paper. While they sang, and Michelle talked about her path up to this point, I sat and wrote this 5 pages back in Cheri’s yellow pad of paper…..

I didn’t know before, what a con was. Curious, I guess.

You can’t do this work and NOT soul search

It’s pre-requisit.

But now I know. They’re just men. Deeds are done.
It’s the intention. And intention. And intention.

Some incarcerated men have good intention.
and heart
and beauty.

But as Pit says “some mother fuckers need to be locked up.”

Seriously. What a weird anniversery. Today marks two whole weeks of my life that I’ve chosen to spend in prisons, tight with lifers…

Today, a caged Gatlin spit rhymes from the confines of a box with locks. 11 in 3 rows. Men. Men that still dream…

Prison is the intentional removal of hope, or as much removal as the prison masters can muster.

Prison is perpetual punishment.
like being grounded forever…

So with this time I’ve spent, I think I know what I’m there to do. Seems to me, I should walk in and say something like:

“Hello, fellows. I’m here to spend some time with you. To be real with you. I play guitar, and know some songs. I’d love to share some, and hear what you’ve got, too. Let’s be real and exchange…”

I still don’t know my intention or purpose. I’m starting to get close. The knowledges eludes me. Teases me. Which, to be honest, is frustrating. Maybe I’ll never need to know…

My heart is open. But my mind remains confused…

But who cares. I’m honestly gld to at least be real with these men. Princes of a different realm.

-And I’m glad to be kind to them.

So as far as the work goes, we’ve only got these two more days. Today, we all get to act like kids in Katy’s art class. I’m excited for it. She went and led a couple projects with our friends in the C facility yesterday, and will be doing the same in A today with the rest of us in tow.

I’m proud to say, though, that the One Soul work is going great. The light we’ve been bringing inside is intense medicine, and we’re effectively working within the confines of the rules of the prison, many of which we just don’t know yet. We’re working so well that at one time yesterday, we had split up and were spreading the light in 3 different rooms at the same time. Art in C, the girls’ music in the EOP, and Rik and I in Ad Seg. Devide and conquer.

Again. I love the people I’m here with. Their hearts are aching and growing all at the same time. These people are amazing, and we are all some of the luckiest folks in the world. And we’re all together right here. Right now….

nothing but love…..!!!!!!

Filling me up with music and poetry – Shawn Zuke

•January 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

On Monday our visit started off in an A Yard program room for people that are part of EOP.  EOP is designated for the men who have mental stuff going on and need medication and psychiatry.  The goal of the program is to get them well enough to put them back into the C Yard general population, which is a very tough place to be if you don’t fit in.  There is a lot of prison cultural politics that I know little about, but one thing I do know is that weakness is not tolerated in the main population, which makes the quality of life very low and survival could be an issue.  Spiff and Rik got whisked off to AD-SEG and Mel, Michelle, and I kept their attention with our songs, harmonies, and stories.  There were 8 or so Latino’s present for the show and I got to sing Del Sol for them with the girls, which they very much appreciated!
We ended the day in the A Yard Library for men under protective custody.  It was a mix of all races and they seemed very well connected, like family.  I shared the didge and gave most of them heart healings.  It was really crazy and wonderful to see stereotypical looking prisoners with their eyes closed and fully present for the ritual.  It seems that these men get so little attention and kindness given to them from outsiders that even 25 sec of sound healing is a divine precious gift.  We mostly sang for them and did some connecting at the end.  I love that part the most!  C was a very old man in a wheel chair that kept tooting his horn for applause.  He was toothless and very old looking.  Spiff thought 143, but the sad thing of it is he probably was in his early 70’s.  I’m sure the lack of nutrition in the food doesn’t help out prison life spans.  Anyway, he told me that he could have gotten out, but that he was 20 years institutionalized and didn’t want to leave his friends.  Later Katy told me he said to her that at that moment for the first time ever he was on the fence about getting out. 
Today Melissa, Spiff, Rik, Michelle, Ellie, and I went into EOP Ad-Seg and the prisoner who named us One Soul December 2009 coincidently happened to be back in the hole.  He was entirely honored to hear our story and see the new One Soul CD.  When we asked him to sign all of our copies of the CD, he said “Wow” very humbly.  He shared one of his rap’s with us beating his chest for the rhythm.  It is heart breaking story to hear, his absent father doing time in prison and his mother being married to crack, but I also see the healing that comes from speaking his truth through poetry.  I’ve heard the same story over and over here at New Folsom and cannot help to think that these destructive societal family patterns are to blame.   Those that have found peace in prison do not blame.  For them the road to enlightenment and finding peace does not support that concept.  M writes “if the walls say we aren’t free, then we’re believing the walls, and not what’s free within us”. 
The rest of the day we sang and listened for those who deeply appreciated and needed it back in the A Yard EOP program room.  We also got to hear new poetry from three of Jim Carlson’s protégé’s that blew my mind once again.  Tragic traumatic life stories filled with truth and the hope of finding their way through the anger, victimhood, gang craziness, and many other subjects I have fortunately never had to deal with in my blessed life.
My biggest revelation so far is the value of forgiveness.  Forgive myself and others by letting go of the daily judgments and practicing gratitude and unconditional love.  By liberating ourselves from the walls of our own personal prisons, we may let go of the fears that mask our true inner nature which is love, joy, and perfection.  Love, joy, and perfection, was reflected within the prison walls today, and it filled me up.

 
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