The Incarcerated InkWell

Federal Inmate in a Canadian Prison with a Life Sentence writes about prison life

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More Poems by Peter Williams

Castle of the Dead

The way of the unpardonable,

the menacing dead

riding in a car

my child not considered

The question, manner of the nascent

with consuming your milk

encounter salt of flour

my milk not encountered

The anti-mother of the moon

The Age-Confided

for the players with the rut

don’t hail of innocence

The number of your baptism

the flower with said creche

of Olive memory

of the dead period

A venue, a salt with Arena

it’s a demented volume

with truncated variation

the Egg with the statement

Child with mother content

this maze of fish

within the day in the hour

of my solo encounter

SONG OF DEATH

Old Woman Census-taker,

Death the trickster

when you’re going along,

don’t meet my baby

Sniffing at newborns,

smelling for milk

find salt, find cornmeal

don’t find my milk.

Anti-mother of the World,

People-collector

on the beaches and byways

don’t meet that child.

The name he was baptized,

that flower he grows with

forget it, rememberer.

Lose it, Death

Let wind and salt and sand

drive you crazy, mix you up

so you can’t tell

East from West,

or mother from child

like fish in the sea.

And on the day, at the hour,

find only me.

Writer

I would claim the title ‘writer’ if I could make someone else believe

I would dare to dream, if only to deceive

I’d resort to imagination -singe paper wings

The spark is a situation which each day anew begins

Doubt

My mother never doubted me

though trials caused her keening heart to flee

My father is her joy and pain

the look and deed were always twain

The heart that’s followed leads astray

it’s desperate to lead the way

For redemption I’ll not go,

but ‘look of longing’ seek to know

We’re like rivers -deigned to meet

hearts, like hinds, of foot are fleet

Hesitate to shed a tear

to doubt, my love, but without fear

Daddy, Is that you?

A figure with dark hair and intense eyes sat across from me behind glass. Mommy had that receiver pressed to her ear, but her lips kept a thin, straight line. The man said nothing. I wondered for the hundredth time why we were here?here in this towering gray building, in this massive, dull-walled room. Why this mysterious man was sitting behind a glass window with the telephone to his ear, tears in his eyes.

Mommy?s eyes are sad and drooping, but despite the obvious emotion of emptiness she felt, she brushed my bangs from my forehead and laid a kiss as light as a sigh there. After a long blink, she pulled the phone from her ear and touched the warm receiver to mine. My stomach tumbled with nervousness. What am I, a weary, unknowing, little three-year-old supposed to think?

?Say hi to Daddy, Aleyshee-Bean.?

The absence of a Father never bothered me; I have my Mommy, after all. I feel no loss, no sadness when I hug Mommy?s waist and kiss her cheek, even though I know deep down that there should be another set of arms encircling us. Isn?t that what a family is supposed to be? No, I thought. Just Mommy and I, that?s a real family.

My heart never hurt when I saw those big grins of kids playing with their Daddies, asking for piggy-back rides and giggling like clowns when they grazed the sky with their fingertips. In fact, that almost seemed odd. The way I saw it, all Daddies stay in that big gray building until they?re older, then they?re allowed out. These Daddies I see now must be pretty old.

Mommy and I moved to a dark basement suite; away, away from the calm, full-of-laughter complex. Mommy?s smile died. Her eyes got all droopy and strained and that cigarette never left her fingertips. Her happiness went right down the drain.

A wide-shouldered, evil-eyed man knocked on the glass of our basement window. I looked up stiffly from my spot on the carpet. Mommy shifted on the couch and it squeaked in protest, but she didn?t wake. I remained still. The man rolled his eyes and pulled a screwdriver from his jacket pocket. I swallowed and lay there, propped up on one elbow and watched, paralyzed.

The door ?clunked? as he shoved the screwdriver hard into the lock and Mommy?s eyes flickered open. She didn?t say a word, only looked over the ridge of the couch. Her eyes lit up with a joy that seemed so long gone I didn?t think it existed anymore. The excitement emanating from her made me wonder: is this my Daddy? Has he finally been let out of the gray building?

I crouched in the closet, my knees to my chest. Darkness filled my quiet place and I smiled. This dark tunnel is a comfort of being away from him. I jumped as another chair shattered against the kitchen wall. Mommy shrieked. At the speed of light, I covered my ears and pushed hard; I pushed away the noise, the screams, and maintained the isolation of my safe place. This can?t be my Daddy. My Daddy would never be like this. Nobody’s Daddy is like this, I?m sure.

Mommy put her warm arms around me and touched her lips to my ear, ?I love you, Snugglefrax, I love you so much,? she said. The burn of a hot tear hit my shoulder as it fell off Mommy?s cheek.

?I love you too, Mommy.?

?I have to go for awhile. I?ll be back for you.?

I pulled away and ground my stare into her deep brown eyes.

?What do you mean?? I snapped. ?Where are you going??

?I have to settle down. I promise I?ll be back. I promise.? I glanced around her and saw that evil-eyed man standing in the dark night beside her beat up red sports car, two boxes in his hands.

She kissed my cheek and pulled my arms from around her neck. My heart burst, exploded me from the inside out and tore a gaping, black hole as evidence of the loss.

?No! No! Mommy! Don?t leave me! Mommy!? Grandpa?s heavy arms held me back from running to her. Sobs shook my shoulders and I reached with desperate arms as if I could grab her, no matter how many steps she?s taken from me. Red-eyed, she turned and disappeared into the night.

?Want to make some cookies for Daddy, Leeshie?? Nana smiled and happy little crinkles formed at the corners of her eyes. Today we are going to see my Daddy. My real life Daddy! Nana had told me weeks ago that the big gray building was prison, and that?s where he?d been all this time, but I still couldn?t get the idea through my brain.

?Okay, Nana.?

The cookies smelled wonderful coming out of the oven and I hoped Daddy would like them. My first childish impulse was to grab one of those steaming choco-chip cookies, but my stomach felt like I?d just wolfed down a corndog and I was on the final loop of a rollercoaster. Two words: major spew-age.

The car ride went too fast for my emotions. Time was just in fast forward, and everything was passing in a new-experience blur: barbed wire fences, passing barbed wire gates and entering the big gray building, walking through the metal detector and signing in.

Then, there it was. The final door. The final loop. I thought I would vomit right there, but I swallowed, and Nana pushed open the door. There he was. Tall and green-eyed with the smile that could light up an entire city; nothing like I remembered, but I was happy for that. The cookies went into Nana?s hands as I sprinted to him and jumped into my Daddy?s arms for the first time seven years.

Six years later from that moment, sixteen years of age, and here I am. 993 words later, every single one encouraged by the Dad I had missed for so very long. I thought I had lost everything when poor ?ole Mommy left, but I guess we move on. Life goes on, and you have to go with it. Holes will fill, and no matter what you lose, you will receive.


Bio:

L.E. Writes from the clarity of her trauma, but also writes to overcome it. She is inspired by her dad to write. She grew up with her mom then her grandparents while her dad was in prison and learned from his happiness despite his circumstances.

L.E.’s Blog

The Joy of Writer’s Block

“Congratulations.”

I looked up to see Moustache Pete standing there with a big goofy grin on his face. Pete is one of the teachers at the prison school, and is an able educator. He’s also a happy-go-lucky guy that never got the memo that the seventies are over.

“What’s up, Pete?” I asked in response to his greeting.

“Congratulations. You won the literacy day contest.”

I was speechless. It felt like Pete was a doctor announcing the news of a successful childbirth.

“Wow. Thanks,” was all I could muster. I guess the proud-papa smile on my face must have compensated for my lack of verbosity. Pete just smiled in return before giving me a Ned Flanders wave and returning to his class.

I first heard about the literacy day contest at my Friday writing class. The class is taught by a seventy-four year old ex-Catholic priest who now preaches the doctrine freedom through writing. He is a very inspirational guy, as you may have discerned from reading his guest writer’s piece at The Incarcerated Inkwell last week.

“You are not criminals, you are writers.”

“You are not addicts, you are writers.”

“You are not convicts, you are writers,” Ed Griffin puts into our head week after week.

And because he does, this is what comes out:

Cascade College 2010 Literacy Day Contest – 1st Prize for Prose — Grade 12 and Up


Hockey Night in Afghanistan

— I.M. GreNada

Laila leapt from her bed mat. Silent as a leopard, alert as a fox, she stood in the dark of the room she shared with her five-year-old sister. The alarm in her heart pooled with the gurgling of the spring-swollen Helmund, blocking other sounds. It was not her ears that had woken her. Someone is here, she thought. I can feel it. Suspending breath, she wiped the clammy film away from her neck, and listened. At first, nothing. Then — the loose sand outside their door complained under the weight of someone’s feet — an intruder seeking silence. Laila imagined sour sweat through the door’s oak planks.

The latch rattled, followed by silence, deafening. The door is locked. The door is locked. I know I locked the door, her mind recited in mantra. The crunching moved on, down the hall, towards her young brother, Gulfaraz Khan. Laila’s thundering heart awoke Jahanbibi from the purr of little-girl sleep.

Her eyes panicked the room for something she could use for protection. Jahanbibi cowered to the corner of her bed mat. Even in the heat, Laila could see her shivering — eyes glowing like moonlit flood pools, wide and deep. Above the young child, Laila’s eyes captured the shadow of her carpet loom, hanging on the wall. She remembered the polished-bone weaving needles her Abbi had given her last year, on her fourteenth birthday. Barefoot quiet, she stepped across the room and retrieved them from their slot on the loom. They felt cool in her hands, especially against the heat of the late spring night. She listened. Crunch, crunch, crunch. The door latch rattled again. This time different — stronger. Merciful Allah, no, the older girl mouthed, soundless. There is more than one of them.

A new sound penetrated the room. Like the distant whine of an approaching airplane, Jahanbibi began to siren in fright. The child would soon lose control. Laila cupped her free hand over her sister’s mouth. Lips pursed, eyes glaring wide, the older girl shook her head from side to side in a silent message of resolve. The whine stopped, and Jahanbibi’s legs folded under, as she slid from her sister’s grip to the bed mat. Laila pulled a blanket over her sister, cocooning her within. The little girl snailed up in a protective ball.

Genetics alone cannot explain the way that siblings know each other. It is a relationship like no other. They could be in a crowd of a million, fifty years later, and still find each other. Maybe it’s the curl of a cowlick, the swing of an arm, or the way a certain word is said; they just know each other. Which explains why, when Gulfaraz Khan screamed from his room, the girls knew their brother was not pranking.

In that slow-motion second, the sisters — divorced from fear — surged forward in protection. Laila reached the door first and, ripping it open, confronted the frame-filling figure. The glasses were the first thing she saw. Before their parents had been killed by soldiers in the fall, Dada had told her that, with the strange glasses, the soldiers could see in the dark of night — like a hyena. Next, she saw the gape that swallowed the young man’s bristly face.

Jahanbibi’s voice pierced the tension like an air raid siren, emptying little lungs. “Gulfaraz Khan,” she howled. As the soldier swung his gun barrel into the doorway, he smashed Laila in the side of the face. Rolling away, youthful speed saved her from the intensity of the blow. Still, her eyes welled with tears as the steel cracked against her nose. The soldier screamed at her in spit and high-volume verbiage. The only thing she understood was yushta, the filthy Pashto word for her private, female place. He screamed it repeatedly while pointing his weapon, first at her, then Jahanbibi, then back at her. Balls of torchlight bounced from hallway walls into the girls’ room. Laila didn’t care. Words and lights meant nothing. Only Gulfaraz Khan filled her mind. When the soldiers had come to Oal’eh-ye Bost last winter, she had been too frightened, too small, to fight back. Her parents’ blood had stained the sand in this very same hallway. They would not take her brother too.

With a force borne from hatred and love, she swung her hand at the intruder in front of her. When the weaver’s needles struck the man, she felt so- weighty. She had never stabbed before, and could not know that the needles had gone deep into the man’s thigh. What she did know is that her hand had stopped Earth’s motion – as if caught on camera. The cavern of the soldier’s scream, Jahanbibi’s arms wrenching around Laila’s leg, the spring-sweet smell of the Helmund, the metallic taste of blood dribbling from Laila’s nose — a flash-frozen moment in the glacier of Afghanistan’s misery.

Brilliance swathed the room in warmth, like the evening fire Dada would build on those cool nights they went collecting fat-tailed sheep from exhausted summer grazing ranges. With brightness came a rush of air and the intense smell of sulphur. Laila had learned to hate that smell. When the bullets struck, she numbed herself — like she had the time her mother beat her for losing Abbi’s gold ring. It had been a gift — an heirloom passed from mother to daughter on her wedding day. With a body no longer hers, Laila spun in circles — a dancing puppet on the whims of some deranged marionette. She felt the blows as they buffeted, again and again. Ears rang with explosions. Then, stillness.

From her bed mat, Laila opened her remaining eye. She reached to understand. This is my room, she guessed, correctly. This is my sister. Jahanbibi lay beside her. But it was not Jahanbibi. Some of the little girl was there, and some was? Well, some just wasn’t. Laila opened her mouth to ask about the rest of Jahanbibi, but all that came out was nonsense, an anagram enveloped in surging blood. She felt her head lifted by hands not her own, and squinted as light flooded her vision. She sensed the motion of her head as it turned this way and that, before being stilled. I am so tired, she thought. It’s been a long day. I hope that Dada makes fresh nan for our breakfast. In her dream-crossed twilight, Laila wondered about the leaf on the soldier’s arm, and what sort of tree yields leaves the color of blood.


Hey, Ed, guess what? I think I’m a writer.

A Day in the Life of a Prisoner

Outside the large solid metal door of my cell the distinct call of the morning announcement penetrates the peace of my sleep. I turn to lie on my back. Blinking my eyes open I see the familiar glow of sunlight as it pours in an orange shade. The announcement was for breakfast. I know I have to hurry or miss out. I pull myself out of bed and slip on my jogging pants and a t-shirt before brushing my teeth, using the toilet, and washing my hands.

The cell is roomy enough: 6 bricks wide and 8 bricks long. I guess each brick to be fifteen inches but I?ve never actually measured them at this place. The walls are painted a pink pastel and the door a green pastel. I imagine that pastel colors were chosen because of their calmness ? their soothing effect. The bed is hardly more than a flat piece of painted steel bolted to the wall. A thick hard foam mattress sits on top. We are given two bed sheets and three cotton-knit blankets that I have to fold in half and pile one on top of the other just to stay warm in the cold fall nights. I wonder just how cold the cells get in the winter.

Across from the bed is a ?desk and shelves unit.? This is a collection of three metal drawers sitting in a metal frame along with a few more metal shelves above these. Beside this is a square countertop with a thin long drawer below it for your pens and pencils and stuff. My shelves are filled with clothes ? mostly ones given to me by the prison but some I have ordered in from a department store from the street. I only make $6.90 each day, but after a few moths of saving, you can buy some nice things, like my 14? television sitting atop the shelf above the desk. The television is crowded by a container of coffee, a bottle of aspirin, and other necessities that I have purchased.

My small stereo sits on a metal box where I store all my books ? I have a lot of books ? all of them of a spiritual nature. I also have a small fan that sits on a shelf above the television. Not far from there is the highlight of my cell: a small potted plant.

A high pitch squeal pierces my cell. I hate that noise but I have grown resentfully tolerant of it ? it is my neighbor?s sink, so what can I do? Mine makes the same terrible sound in his cell.

I grab my cup and plastic cutlery and plastic bowl. I press a small button beside my door and a moment later, the lock slips out and I pull my door open. The sound of one hundred inmates getting ready for breakfast impacts like a wall as I walk down the hallway we call the living range towards the common area where there are metal tables with a piece of square tabletop above. Each table has four solidly fixed stool-like chairs. Before I go to breakfast, I bang on the door of a friend of mine and call him through the thin slit between the door and doorframe of his cell – the only way to wake him in the morning.

It?s pancakes for breakfast, I note as I walk past table after table of men sleepily eating. To my left is a large desk behind which sit several guards. The living unit is designed in such a way that these can see all areas from their vantage point.

At breakfast, there is no line up at the food counter so I walk directly up to the window. The lady behind the counter asks me if I would like two pancakes or three. Three, I reply. My pancakes don?t look well cooked, but I don?t care; what else am I going to eat?

After breakfast, I make coffee. This particular institution does not allow coffee machines so making coffee is a process: boil the water in a kettle used by all 12 guys on my range, put a piece of paper towel into a Styrofoam container with holes punched out of the bottom, and add two good scoops of coffee grounds. A ?click? sound from the hallway tells me the kettle is finished boiling. I fill up an equal-sized cup of water as the one in which I am making coffee; this way I don?t add too much water. I slowly pour the water into the Styrofoam container and slowly my coffee is made.

While I wait for my coffee to cool to just the right temperature, I make my bed, strip off my clothes, put on my housecoat and head for the shower. Every second day is ?shave day? for me. When it?s not a shaving day it?s a laundry day. This is my own routine. Today is a shave day, so I put a lid on my coffee so that it doesn?t cool too much. I bring my shaving stuff to the shower with me. Glass mirrors aren?t allowed here but some guys still have them. I borrow one, as I dislike shaving without one. I can do it and do it well, but it?s tedious.

I love showering. I do it twice a day. I like the feel of the hot water pouring over my skin. It?s like as the water rinses over my face – my eyes closed – I am transported to a place of peace. The sounds of prison disappear in the white noise of thousands of water drops splashing noisily over me and over the tiles of the shower. I feel refreshed, made new, and ready for a new day. I dry off and return to my house ? well, my cell, that is, but we call it our ?houses.? I stand on my towel and carefully dry between my toes. I sprinkle powder here and there on my skin and rub it in. I put under arm deodorant on and slip into some clothes. Today I feel like a nice thick warm pair of jogging pants and a t-shirt. I pull two pairs of socks on: white cotton for one pair and wool socks for the other. I like the cushiony comfort of two socks.

I sit at my desk after putting my wet towel into my laundry bag hidden away in a corner of my house behind the door. I take my first sip of coffee ? it?s the right temperature. It always is. In my mouth, the coffee is strong and bitter and I swallow it like it was melted chocolate. Every morning I read a scripture. I always read it after my first swallow of coffee and so I do this now.

The next half-hour is spent carefully studying the bible. (Studying the bible and drinking my coffee.) Soon the coffee is finished and so is my studying. I look at the little clock on the shelf beside my television. It reads ten minutes to nine ? it always says a time very near to this by the time my coffee and studying is finished. That?s because at nine our program starts.

Our violent offender program has different types of sessions. In dynamic group, there is no topic. We sit around and speak our minds on whatever comes up. Sometimes the guys talk about the very terrible things in their lives. We sympathize, we offer our own experiences, but most importantly, we listen. We listen and we also learn something about ourselves.

In other sessions, we learn. We learn errors in thinking; how we might perceive things in different ways; what things set us off or get us angry. We learn so we can change. Today was one of those kinds of sessions and I bring my large binder to class with a pen.

Looking at the other eleven guys in the group, I see tired faces. Yes, they are tired because it?s the morning, but they are also tired because they have been in the same prison routine day after day ? some for five years some for ten, some for as much as fifteen years. The prisoner?s eyes are unfocused. They look inward where stuff happens ? dreams and life ? not outward to the same walls and cold emptiness around them.

Our two facilitators hand out today?s lesson. I open my binder and place it in to the rungs of the binder. Today?s topic is relationships. One of the guys starts reading. This lesson, however, is mostly discussions. The question to discuss first is what types of relationships there is with family, friends, acquaintances, authority figures? and victims. Lots of input from everybody and the group is on a positive note. But as we near the question of victims, my mind wanders. Then my mouth opens and speaks: ?My victim has passed away, but there are other victims.? My tone is of sorrow. The room goes silent. I imagine everybody is reflecting on their own victims.

I continue, ?I mean, the victim?s cousin attacked me when I was in court. And his wife was there, too. These are victims as well.?

?But the biggest ? most tangible ? one to me is my mom. I remember just after I was arrested and I called her on the phone. She spoke like I was dead. She said things like: ?My son was a good boy and now he?s gone.? I was hurt to the core. I tried to comfort. I even remember saying, ?Ma. It?s me! I?m still alive! I?m right here!? It was the hardest conversation in my life.?

The guys are staring at the floor. Some thank me for sharing this deeply emotional thing. Others share some stuff about their own victims. The tone has changed, but I?m happy that it did. This is how people heal.

An hour and a half later, the group ends and we go back to the hallway where we live. Soon it will be lunch. We stand around and talk. Some guys go to their houses to watch television or read a book. Some do laundry.

The announcement calls one range at a time for lunch and soon the common area of tables begin to fill with people. Noisy people. Sometimes I am sick of them and just want to find a place away from people. Sometimes, like today, I am happy to be around others.

Our range is called last and I make two stops before getting in line for the food counter. I stop to fill my cup with milk and I stop to fill my bowl with a salad. I prefer bean salads, but those are rare ? today its just green-leaf lettuce.

I pick up my food from the food counter. It doesn?t matter what the food is. I eat it without tasting much. It fills my stomach to contentment but not full. I eat my salad and drink my milk.

We will be locked down again soon so I bring my dishes over to the sink on my range and wash it out. I fill my cup with cold water that I keep in the tiny refrigerator. I am a little tired from group and I go back to my cell and lock the door behind me. I can still push the little button to get back out but I don?t. Ten minutes later lock down is called and now I am unable to leave my cell.

I sit on the edge of the bed and watch the television program listings to see if a good movie might be on. There?s not. Today ? Friday ? we are locked down for three hours. I?ll sleep for the first hour, but I want to be up by two o?clock as there is a good show on.

I hear the jingle of keys outside in the living range. We all have to stand up and be counted. I stand and watch as the two guards go past the tall narrow window of my door. I return to my bed and close my eyes. If I dream I don?t remember it. Most of my dreams are of in prison so it is usually the ones of the real world ? the outside ? I especially remember. Not today though; they are rare.

When I do awake, I lie on my back and stare at the white ceiling. ?Five more minutes before the show starts.? It?s called ?While you were out.? A person wants to surprise their spouse by sending them away for two days and renovating one of the rooms in their house while they are gone. The carpenter Andrew Jumbo is always given too much work to do and I always wonder if he?s going to finish in time. His helper Leslie Segretto and him always seem to get into some kind of argument. I think those two have a relationship outside the show. Its fun to watch but the best part is when the spouse comes home and sees the room. I like watching their reaction ? especially if that reaction includes tears of joy because that kind of joy is such a real emotion ? pure. It makes me cry, too.

The last commercial break before the show ends I quickly get changed into my track pants. I will only have one hour after our doors open to go and ride the stationary bike and exercise my abdomens.

?While you were out? ends and I begin to pace my cell waiting for the door to open. It?s usually late on Fridays and soon it is 3:15pm. I check the little button beside the door from time to time but without response. I press it again and the whirring of the lock opens the door.

Out I go down the hallway, past the tables of the common area in front of the desk with the guards and out the double door into a brisk fresh sunny Friday afternoon. Sure, there are fences everywhere with its sharp spiky razor wire coiled around its top but there is also the lush green grass, the smell of clean air, a deep blue sky, small flowers and small trees. There is the music filling my ears through the Discman. I smile as I walk towards the gym.

I ride the stationary bike for a mere 15 minutes ? not quite as long as usual but I?m a little distracted today. So distracted I bypass my abdomen work out altogether and go back to my home. ?Well, soon my show is going to start: ?Daily Planet.? So I might as well sit down and get ready to watch it.? Another stand up lock down occurs and then I lie on my back on my bed and watch ?Daily Planet? ? it is basically science news and I always learn fascinating new things about the world and life about me.

Half an hour later, the announcement is made for our unit to go eat supper. Now the little button beside my door is active again and I press it with bowl and cutlery in the other hand. Even how I get my food has become somewhat of a routine. I reach the drink machine first and fill my 10-ounce cup with milk. Next comes the table where I sit. There I put my cup of milk down, place a napkin down that I might be able to place my cutlery on and then I head toward the small salad bar. I put two scoops of salad in the bowl with a couple of small heads of broccoli and a spoonful of salad dressing. It is a creamy ranch dressing ? probably home made, I guess, as the flavor often changes.

Supper is a stuffed green pepper and a small piece of cake. I eat all of it. It?s actually not too bad for flavor (or I no longer know what good food tastes like anymore).

I want to hurry up and eat, though, because at 5:15 is the time we are allowed to move again and its nearly that time already. I give my plate to the dishwasher and head over to the sink where I wash my cutlery, bowl, and cup in the sink. I then fill my cup with more water from the refrigerator and go back to my cell to brush my teeth and change into clothes appropriate for exercise.

I slip on my blue track pants that I bought only about a month ago. I?m pretty happy with these ones; they?re comfortable and light and keep me warm. Already, my workout buddy is at my door knocking and teasing me so I?d better get going.

We head down to the gym and tease each other the entire way. He has a pretty strange sense of humor. Mine is pretty strange at times but at least I keep my jokes clean ? something he doesn?t always do. For my sake I know he tries to clean up the jokes. He knows about my spirituality and the fact that I don?t swear or tell obscene jokes.

The gym is quiet at this time- not always, but for the most part. We push each other in a hard workout focusing on the chest. I?ve only been working out for six months now but its really beginning to show. I?ve gained weight and the tone is really becoming defined. Most important, however, is that it helps me get through emotionally difficult days like it had been today. I feel good about myself.

We finish just before six o?clock and we watch a couple guys from our group play a little badminton. They?re terrible at the game and it?s entertaining to watch. We heckle them a little and they laugh.

It?s nearly six o?clock so we decide to return home ? we only have ten minutes to do so or we are stuck in the gym. Did I say home? Well, there is no other place that I can think of as home ? so I guess that?s what that hallway where my cell is: my home.

I prepare for the shower right away. There are female guards usually working every day so I have gotten into the necessary habit of getting undressed without ever being openly naked. My housecoat provides well at this time.

After my shower, I slip into a different set of jogging pants. They?re so old and I basically use them as pajamas. Relaxing, I lie on my bed and read a few pages of a book called ?Forms of Devotion.? If anyone were to ask me what the genre of this book was I wouldn?t know how to answer. The author has placed several short stories with no endings together into a collage of thought. Reading the book is like eating a pizza.

Slowly nine o?clock approaches: Another stand up lock down. Another half an hour spent in my cell. Nearly another day spent of my life. Another hour before we are locked back down. I decide to reach out and touch someone. By letter that is? and I hope you have enjoyed my day.

Chess Maxims and More


–>

Chess Maxims

Failing
to trade
Pieces has cost
me more games than anything else

Trading
pieces
has won
me more games of chess than any other tactic

Seeking out tough
opponents
has improved my level
of play
more than any other training
technique (this
includes
computers!)

People who avoid playing
computers are embarrassed to
lose against
a mere electronic gadget, even though they’re
fast
and EXTREMELY dangerous.

Playing TOUCH MOVE has
improved my ability to
trust my instincts
more than any
other factor.
Moves which exude
confidence
stand.

In complex positions, or
under
time pressure,
our subconscious can do the
calculating
more
consistently
.

Looking at the board for
long periods when it’s
not
your turn
to move BURNS a FALSE IMAGE into
your
retina so that
you will BLUNDER, failing to take a subtle CHANGE in position into
account.

Looking at the area of
the board where you’re planning to attack or set a trap will draw
your opponent’s eye to that area of the board and he will
intuitively make
better responses
as a result.

Starting to look at
potential moves for
your chessmen
in response to
your
opponent reaching for or starting to
move
will draw his
eye
to your best options,
seeing his move is a BLUNDER before letting go.

  • Peter W.

Clickety
clack

The car engine thrummed
with an unusual lumpiness. Ricochet envisioned his cohorts moving
through their clockwork assault on the bank with choreographed
precision:

-5 seconds; guns out,
warning shots, barking orders for everyone down on the floor

– 10 seconds; two leaping
over the counters with heavy canvas duffel bags being passed to them

He touched the throttle a
little and envisioned the dual camshafts actuating the shiny, oiled
valve heads with precise mechanical rythym.

The engine wrestled in
its mounts as the getaway driver imagined a pistol hammer clicked
back at the ear of the bank guard. Clickety clack.

My
Dream

My dream is
to draw inspiration from a vaugely worded piece and redraft it with
economy of words.

My dream is
to see the masterpiece in the roughly hewn stone and draw it out
with deft strokes

My dream is
to give voice to the muse without care for claim of authorship or
audience

My dream is
drained by fulfillment


This poem first appeared in:”Penned In”,
published in August 2010 by Jupiter Literary Press

Poems by Kelly Gyurkovits

About the Writer

Kelly L. Gyurkovits ~
GURK

When asked ?Why did
you start writing?? Kelly?s answer was – ?My
mother is to blame for it?. He was shown a family photograph
of eleven Galbraith family members back in 2001 and his mother said
?This is my father?s family and I know nothing about
them? From that day forward Kelly was captivated by genealogy
and compiled a family history book that included over 400 pages of
stories, documents and old photographs which date back to the early
1600?s in Scotland. For the first time in his life, he
discovered the true enjoyment of reading and writing. Inspiration
comes from within the stories he has heard along his own path of
life, nonetheless it?s the story, inside the story that he
loves to write about. A hopeless romantic at heart – still shedding
a tear reading a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Just
Below

Just below this mighty earth

Ground dwelling animals will give
birth,

Just below the ocean floor

Lost ships lay lost that sail no more

Just below old cinder and rust

I moved the body…now almost dust

Just below an open night sky

Ask no questions, especially why?

Just below the midnight moon

The other side is high noon

Just below a grassy knoll

Is where I dug that eternal hole

Just below the putrid skin

That?s where his soul… did
once begin

Just below six feet of fill

Is where he lays… forever still

This poem first appeared in:”Penned In”,
published in August 2010 by Jupiter Literary Press

Inspirational
Bliss

Naturally
we watch

As
it falls down her face

We
see one more drop

In
just the same place

Illuminated
by light

Oval
and clear

Some
formed by love

Yet
some?by fear

Made
from pure liquid

Neither
solid, nor stone

Flows
freely like water

Sometimes
it hits?home

So
as you hand her that tissue

And
she wipes off that tear

Just
nod? simple gesture

Letting
know that you are near.

Little
Moments

Ever since, I could remember

Times like these are hard to find

Put together, like an album

Stored way back in my mind

From that first tooth, under my pillow

To the switch I did not see

Like that rabbit or the reindeer

Who always stopped for me

Stealing a dollar from my brother

I?ll always, feel that shame

Or maybe it was that first time

I saw a live, baseball game

Even though now, that I?m older

And I take the book down, from the
shelf

I will always keep some little
moments?

Strictly to myself

loneliness

blank talks

wasted walks

finding nothing

to please

an empty soul

such lifeless toll

finding nothing

i need

some far off fame

i must proclaim

finding nothing

to be

weary nights

endless fights

finding nothing

for me

this poem first appeared in:”Penned In”,
published in August 2010 by Jupiter Literary Press

Magnetism

Comfort
is the hope and strength

Enchanting
is the spell?

Magnificent
is the beauty

Your
body holds so well?

Passion
is that feeling

That
brings me back for more?

Like
sugar in a gum drop

It?s
your sweetness I adore…

Luscious
and appealing

Delightful
just to hear?

Love
is the affection

As
I pull you close and near?

Poetic
Justice

Progressing

Onward,

Expressing

The

Inner

Crime

Judgment,

Understanding,

Sentencing?

Those

Incarcerations

Came

Easy

Poems by L.E.

Don’t
know what to do anymore
What am I living for?
What are these

mirrors

telling
me?
I can’t see the ugly
scars on my arms
seems I

can
not

help
it. Pain
feels better than
being numb. I

tell

myself
to stop
This isn’t what you
want. People love me.

Lies


Oh
ado, ado
your hands
they are yet so tender
so sweet against
my skin
and oh, my loved
the delicate lines
they caress
upon your lips
sing songs through my veins
bring a sweet
sorrow
yet to my eyes
filled with yet contentment
and the
sea salt of loss
the tears that falls from their
cheeks hold
no lies
no shame
no resentment
nor regret
but the dying
pain
of leaving
my dearest behind


Soft
sobbing
in the other room,
He always leaves
mommy

crying

She
cries and cries,
soft salty tears
rolling down her
brown
cheeks.
Who is she crying

for?

What
is she crying
for? Is it the
purple bruises he
left on her
skin?
What about

Him

Does
she yearn
for so bad?
If something happens

once

It
will happen
again.
He’ll bring
her her drugs. Give
her
what she wants.
Then beat till she
screams mercy. Yet,
she
always cries,
begging for

more.


Reversed

Perversed

Can’t
think

Watch
me sink

What
am I doing?

What
am I doing?

It
doesn’t matter

As
I sit here in tatters

Waiting

Debating

So
frustrating

Why
me?

That’s
my plea

I
tease pondering

Fear

Burden
burden

Why
am I hurting?

There
should be no loss

I’m
the boss.

At
least I think I am

No,
stuck in this paper jam

Of
scribbled notes

Sinking
boats

Can’t.
Breathe

Must.
Leave.

Want
is greater than fear

Hands
stronger than tears


Bio:

L.E.
Writes from the clarity of her trauma, but also writes to overcome
it. She is inspired by her dad to write. She grew up with her mom
then her grandparents while her dad was in prison and learned from
his happiness despite his circumstances.

http://lestoryspace.blogspot.com

Of Meteor Showers and a Long Way Home

Watching for the brilliant streaks of meteors entering into our atmosphere last night let my mind wander back five years. Three unlikely men lying on a grassy hillside staring up into the night sky. We watched like pre-teen boys pointing excitedly, “I saw another one!”

The meteor flashes rose up feelings of wonder and awe. It allowed us to escape for a moment the reality of the prison gates around us.

Two weeks previous I sat in a multi-level prison. Multilevel is actually a maximum security prison, but it is called a multi-level so that prisoners of all levels: minimum, medium and maximum security are able to be brought here. I volunteered under the threat of lower pay and a longer stay in Matsqui prison to take the Intensive Treatment for Violent Offenders Program – a year long program in the multi-level.

Moving day can be a real rush. Especially is this so when given only two hours notice to pack your house. In my rush, I later realized that I forgot to pack an entire drawer of my desk; the one that contained all of my photographs. I?m fortunate to have been on a range with some good guys as they made sure that they were later sent to me. In the meantime, I felt some grief over the possible loss of those.

Until the very day that the guards told me to pack my cell, the minimum-security prison, Ferndale, seemed like a distant dream. I felt, despite being approved to go there, that something would prevent me from going . All I knew is that I couldn?t make myself believe that I would actually make it here. That belief began to melt as I sat in the back of the escort car handcuff and shackled ? a bit of irony considering that the new prison didn’t warrant such protection.

The escort car finally pulled up to a golf course and, driving through the open gate, parked in front of a building with a sign that stated that all ?visitors must report to the duty office.? The escorting officer released me from the car and my cuffs and shackles while the other officer opened the trunk of the car and lifted my one allowable box out of the trunk.

The escort officers got back in the car and drove away.

My mouth hung wide open as I stood by myself on the sidewalk of this open institution. – Seven years into my sentence – I moved down the prison system from Max to medium to standing right here without any security measures.

A lady from the duty office came out and asked me if I would like to bring my box to Admissions and Discharge. After I left it there, I walked with her into the duty office where she gave me a key for my mailbox and a key for the door of my house. The lady told me what house I lived in and handed me a bunch of forms to sign and a handbook. I could go to the kitchen over there to pick up my food and there was a map on one of the forms that would allow me to find my house. Oh, and you will have to return here at 2:30 to talk to the Correctional Supervisor. At first, I stood there waiting for her to escort me but soon realized that at this point I was on my own. My heart felt like it was filled with helium; it floated lightly in my chest.

I walked over to the kitchen and sat down with two other fellows who arrived at the same time. We would all be going to the same house and one of the men reminded me of a curious ten-year-old jabbering away questions about the institution that I could not possibly answer. ?Do you think this?? I wonder if we?ll be able to?? I wonder what side of the house we?? Do you want to go in on the food with me?? It was exhausting to listen to. I began to dread having to live in the same house with him. I filled my food order and as I left, the kitchen steward told me I had to return here in half an hour to pick up my food.

I searched around for my house and after a few wrong tries, finally found it. An inmate met me there and introduced himself as the Induction clerk. He purposed to show me around the institution. Can I be back at the house in an hour? I checked the growing list of things in my head: I needed to meet with the Correctional Supervisor and also pick up my food. I needed bedding, too? so I would have to find Institutional Supplies ? and I would have to clean my room before moving in ? and of course I would be cooking my own dinners now. I felt a little drowned.

I eventually did get through my schedule. The Induction clerk walked me around the institution. Only two sides of the compound are fenced. They are a mere five feet high and hidden quietly behind cedars that are only slightly taller. The area is so beautiful. There are rows of houses each with its own little paved street and each house with a small front and back yard. Every couple of houses there are large coal barbecues for our use.

Most notable are the huge areas of well-groomed grass. One can quickly see that this used to be a golf course with its little marshlands and grown-over sandtraps. There is a small pond with a little island in its center. Several trees scattered throughout the property provide shade and a sense of serenity. I took in its beauty, but wryly thought, ‘if only the residents could be changed.’

There were greenhouses and gardens. There were various buildings that were built to look much like the houses. I saw a gym, programs building, and all of those other neccessities. He presented a short tour and I didn?t get to explore as much as I would have liked to. I returned to A&D where I was given my one box of effects and I picked up my bedding from SIS next door to A&D

I returned to the house to make dinner. Later that night I met with a man from the outside congregation of my faith. At one point he asked me, ?So, when is the light at the end of the tunnel for you??

?You mean, freedom?? I asked. He nodded.

?You mean this isn?t freedom?? I replied. I wasn?t joking. I know of probably a billion or more people who do not have what I have. Even those who are considered ?middle class? do not have it so good. I would bet most retirement homes offer less. Because I am imprisoned I am restricted? … While those at retirement homes are restricted possibly due to immobility … While those who have to work to pay bills and to take care of their families are restricted by their own financial state and responsibilities.

By 10:00pm I fell fast asleep, burnt out completely from the day. At 5:30 in the morning, I woke up. Sunlight poured in through my window – a sight astonishing to me. I felt totally refreshed. A normal mattress made up my bed – very comfortable. I walked out of my room and into the kitchen area where I plugged in the kettle so I could make a coffee. I smiled widely to myself as I looked out my balcony window at the beautiful mountains that surrounded the place. A light mist shrouded them slightly. I opened the balcony door and the cool morning air wafted in. It smelled of morning dew and fresh cut grass. I walked back to the kitchen to unplug the kettle and poured myself a coffee. I showered and cooked myself a breakfast. I made an omelette with fresh garlic and onions, green peppers and tomatoes. It felt so good. It felt really really good. I felt so elevated. I decided I would go for a jog. I dressed and walked to the front door. I opened it and a cat walked in.

I wasn?t sure how to deal with this. Apparently, they take care of ?compromised? cats here and then give them up for adoption. There are many cats that roam the streets of the institution.

I finished my coffee, put my headphones on and headed outside.

A dilemma now stood ahead of me. The lady at the duty office told me that I could jog anywhere within the boundaries as long as it was daylight and she told me that when it was dark ? that is, when the small quaint street lights were turned on ? that I was required to stay to the paved areas. It was daylight outside and the streetlights were on. Better a wise choice than be sorry! But a moment later, the lights turned off.

It felt very strange to go for a jog; there was no one else around, for one. I left the paved road and began to jog along a trail that went down by the little creek that ran through the Buddhist grounds past the hammock that someone set up between two large trees. I decided it would be nicer to listen to the sounds of morning this time than the stuff coming out of my headphones.

The grass trail led off into a gravel road that forked three ways. I began to slow down. Where were the boundaries again? Have I already passed them? I began to glance around for a truck, a guard, a camera? there was none. I didn?t know what to do – no fence to tell me where to stop.

I followed what I thought to be a safe path. It brought me up a long stretching hill. At the top, I jogged past a stump from a long fallen tree with a young tree growing out of it. The smell of its rotting wood mixed with the strong scent of cedar that seemed to be everywhere. Could I also smell the pine aroma of that little sapling?

The ground felt loamy below my feet and? yech! A spider web stuck unkindly to my face and I pulled its invisible strings out of my face and hair. The trail bent around a large coniferous tree, its long branches hung down like tendrils that nearly touched my head as I swept by below them. To my right something moved speedily and I jumped aside startled. I laughed at myself ? it was probably a rabbit or squirrel.

At the top of the next hill, the stench of skunk cabbage burnt my nose and I crinkled my face. Beyond the fence, there must be a marsh of some sort. And then, the strangest sound? was that a child making noises? I came closer to the sound? no my ears lifted to the sound of a rooster! It came also from the other side of the fence. I began to envision someone?s house and yard, but, when looking, dense forest as far as I could see.

About halfway around the perimeter of the compound I ran alongside the fence that paralleled a main road. A lady jogged just ahead of me with her dog on the sidewalk. She wasn?t aware of me or maybe she long ago stopped looking at the people on this side of the fence.

There is a large flower garden planted in this corner of the compound and I was inundated by so many beautiful aromas and sights. I didn?t try to take it all in. I knew I would be walking and jogging past this spot many times and I could take in a little more each time.

The path followed beneath a line of widely spread-apart maple trees until I grew closer to the visiting area. Several picnic benches and a few barbecues were scattered over the approximately two acres of the park like area. A swing set and slide quietly stood in the shade of several trees.

My jog came to the last corner before the end of my first lap. There I ran below the branches of a plum tree and a cherry tree. The plums were still green but some were turning purple. I made a mental note to come back here in a week and pick a couple. Finally, I came to the end of my first lap. I looked at my watch ? just over eleven minutes? that means about one mile.

I can hardly remember my second day or any of the succeeding days ? I kept so busy always finding new and surprising things about Ferndale that the days just sped by. I found out that the pond had several coy fish in them and a small family of ducks. I found out that the creek also harboured fish in them and several frogs. I came to learn that the attitude among the staff around here differed greatly than from prison [I refuse to call this place prison!].

On the tenth day from my arrival, my sister arranged to visit me. A very unobtrusive PA system called me out to visits. My sister waited for me in the visits room: several tables, a couple of pop machines, a coffee machine, toaster, and microwave, a television and a small patio area. We browsed through a few restaurant menus until we decided on Japanese food. Then we ordered the food ? a simple task: just ask the duty office to use their phone for a moment.

We walked outside, across the parking lot and [yes? the parking lot] into the park like visits area I wrote about earlier. We found a nice picnic table under a hazelnut tree [the nuts were not yet ready to pick ? but it is on my agenda to get a bagful to roast later on in the season]. I wished I remembered to bring a frisbee with me to play in the larger grassy clearing to the West of where we were.

A short while in our visit the Japanese Delivery van pulled up into the parking lot and we went out to meet him and get our food. I put in twenty dollars out of my pocket. [Oh yeah, we are able to transfer money out of our account every two weeks into cash for things just like this] The deliveryman forgot to bring our chopsticks so we gave him a half decent tip and sent him back to pick our chopsticks up. I could just walk down to my house and get chopsticks, but it?s sort of looked down upon for me to leave visits and come back.

We sat down and ate some of the food and a few minutes later, the van came back, stopped half way down the road that leads to the duty office and came out to hand me the chopsticks. I sort of saw this coming ? remember the sign: ?All Visitors must report to the Duty Office.? I tried to get to the duty office to meet him there, but he caught up to me before I could get there.

To imagine just how harrowing this felt to me lets look at this from an observer?s point of view: a van drives down the road leading into the institution. An inmate walks quickly in the same direction. The van stops and a man jumps out and hands a package to the inmate who had walked quickly in the same direction. The man returns to his van and turns around and leaves the institution.

I thought: ?Oh I am in so much trouble!?

It turns out that either they didn?t see what happened or they did and didn?t care. No one mentioned anything to me at all.

We ate then we played on the slide and swing set. The mosquitoes got us a few times but they weren?t really all that bad. Another couple put out a blanket on the grass and enjoyed a nice picnic as a small family. We relaxed and felt at peace.

Two weeks flew by. I knew the guys in my house from Matsqui and on this night they invited me out to lay on the grass behind our house to watch the meteor shower. Something changed inside of me in the past few weeks. Somehow I defused; I unwound from the mindset of past prison experience. I could sit on the grass staring at the sky without pretense; vulnerable in my expressions of childish awe at the light show. I look up at the night sky now waiting for this years shower and look back on how far I have come.

See more at www.mind-immerse.blogspot.com

Poems II by Peter W

Beast

The Beast from Baku is my
mentor

sheer calculation is my
nadir

tactics dictate my
strategy

forsaking material to
promote or ‘mate’

The computer is my
nemesis and its advantage is crumbling one battle at a time.

Beginnings

The gentle
arc of a gull?s swoop

Cast-iron
mechanisms

A turn of
season

Rigging
improvised mid-storm

A sudden
quenching

Sun-warmed
tar scent recalls bygone days

Castle
of the Dead

The way of the
unpardonable,

the menacing dead

riding in a car

my child not considered

The question, manner of
the nascent

with consuming your milk

encounter salt of flour

my milk not encountered

The anti-mother of the
moon

The Age-Confided

for the players with the
rut

don’t hail of innocence

The number of your
baptism

the flower with said
creche

of Olive memory

of the dead period

A venue, a salt with
Arena

it’s a demented volume

with truncated variation

the Egg with the
statement

Child with mother content

this maze of fish

within the day in the
hour

of my solo encounter

SONG OF DEATH

Old Woman Census-taker,

Death the trickster

when you’re going along,

don’t meet my baby

Sniffing at newborns,

smelling for milk

find salt, find cornmeal

don’t find my milk.

Anti-mother of the World,

People-collector

on the beaches and
byways

don’t meet that child.

The name he was baptized,

that flower he grows
with

forget it, rememberer.

Lose it, Death

Let wind and salt and
sand

drive you crazy, mix you
up

so you can’t tell

East from West,

or mother from child

like fish in the sea.

And on the day, at the
hour,

find only me.

Enter
the Ruined Vista

It’s the one Hotel in
Antigua with an escalator

Lo sensed one past time

the past of derrided
tomorrows

the spinning spaces of
living water

parse the star of the
past one hour

Of the Diety Mesa Lagoon
algae

Segregation

Time of uncharted
properties

Tell of your impressions
of Pre-Cambrian sampled star

Hasten the time of Brash
questions, enter ruined vistas – my home

No sobre tenth destiny
calls your hour

Lo his diabloic solitude
upon yesterdays

O transcendant language
of the ages

State here the time and
space to invert your stand

View tall recognition –
fissioned name of my parchment

For you reveal. O the
View of the tall woman recognized

Solitary algae

Among
these Ruins (Translated by Katherine Pierpoint)

This Hotel is an old
school

You can feel it, though
time has passed

Despite broken-down walls
-the smashed pieces

The people who live here
seem to be passing through

A few hours each day… a
few months perhaps

They do have their own
rooms but they seem to be constantly on the move.

I have been looking for
my own room for some time among these ruins.

I couldn’t say how long,
but now I’ve come out into what must have been a garden or some back
terrace.

From here all the spaces
are back-to-front.

Perhaps I will recognize
the look of my room by it’s own back…

Or from it, perhaps, I
will catch some sound.

The
Other Day

Do a good turn to the
disadvantaged

A keepsake trinket of
heirloom

Yet didn’t know I was in
need

I broached a long-lost
secret

She shared dreams for us

We stepped forward shod
with these hopes

Ancient days of Yore

Anew, so fresh as dew

Treasured flower

Peace

Her placid gaze blots out
the fiery sparks of provocation

Banished to
insignificance they are no longer called to mind

My serious errors incite
no harsh rebukes, enabling healing

Freehand a gesture
drawing takes shape without fret

Green coconut she is
pliant, fragrant and sweet

In the shade green of
palm fronds breezes caress my nest

Trifle
2

The debutant was sweet as
an aphid

Her voice was soft amid
the birdsong

She would come round he
hoped

When she was certain of
his love

Not an ounce of excess,
she had softness one could knead

Strip Search

?Mr. M, we would like to conduct a strip search. Would you follow me please?? The Correctional Officer?s tone was commanding even though he feigned politeness with his words.

‘A strip search?? I thought, ?I haven?t even gone to my visit, yet!? I took a step forward then hesitated. My first reaction would be simply to follow him and do as he asked. I had been incarcerated on several occasions and I had already done close to two years on this bit, so I was used to strip searches. However, because of the timing of the bull?s request, I was a bit curious as to what his reasons were. I asked, ?What?s this about??

The officer didn?t hesitate in his response. Obviously, he was prepared for these sorts of questions. ?Everyone who is signed up for Protestant services today is being searched.?

I accepted his answer, however, I was still curious as to why I was being moved from the holding cell I was currently in. Although this question bothered me, I had trained myself to simply go along with what I was told to do. Don?t try to fight their every request and don?t let them push my buttons. It was the consequences of my institutionalization. I followed him into another room just around the corner from the holding cell.

The room I entered was a lawyer interview room. In the middle sat a small wooden table. Two hard plastic chairs sat on each of its ends. The left wall held two tall narrow windows, slightly tinted, and looking out onto the tiny piece of pavement that the jail called a yard. At the moment, nobody was in it.

Directly in view of the entrance to the small room were the closed visits booths. The booths were made so that both the visitor and the inmate on either side of the Plexiglass divider would be visible from any viewpoint. Each closed visits booth, then, were five walls placed like a capital ?H? with each of the open ends closed off by a door. Each of these walls and doors were no more than frameworks of Plexiglass, thus allowing full viewing to the officers who watched them.

It was when I was escorted into the interview room that I suddenly felt a little self-conscious. Although the rooms were currently empty, I knew that in a few minutes they would let the visitors in and that these visitors would have a clear view of the interview room. If I could see them, they could see me.

Another male officer joined Officer Burton. I recognized him as he often worked on the living unit I lived on. He entered the room and stood just on the inside of the door. I looked at him, and then looked back out to the visiting booths. I could still see them clearly.

?Please take off your clothes; shirt first, then pants, socks, and underwear. Hand them one at a time to me.? His voice still held the firm, commanding tone he used when he first came to search me.

I thought to myself, ?Maybe I can get this over with quickly before the visitors are let in.? With that, I began to undress. I handed him my T-shirt and he began to feel through its collar and other hems.

I immediately noticed that he wore leather gloves. This is a practice I have long disliked. Because guards were afraid of being poked by ?sharps? that they might find on prisoners, they argued that they should be allowed to wear leather gloves. However, the same precaution that they were taking to prevent them from catching any diseases turns out to be a hazard towards the inmates.

I had a neighbor on the living unit that had active Hepatitis B. During a cell search they went from his house, wearing those leather gloves and searching through his dirty laundry and his soiled bed sheets. Then they began searching my house. There, they went through my bed sheets. With those gloves. They went through my clean laundry. With those gloves.

I decided not to waste my time by mentioning my chagrin to him. Instead, I continued pulling off my shoes and socks, handing them over to him once he finished with my shirt. He took them from me and began to search through them.

As he dug through my shoes, I removed my pants. Finally, while I stood wearing just my briefs, I noticed the first of the civilian visitors entering the booths. I froze. The second officer looked over his shoulder to see what I was staring at. Then looked back. He gave no indication that he cared that I was standing, stripped down to my briefs in front of civilians.

Slightly appalled, I spoke. ?Sir,? I said in the most respectful tone I could muster, ?There are people in those booths.?

His reaction surprised me. He took a step towards me, his face brightening immediately into a dark red; anger emanated from him in waves of heat that I could literally feel. Leaning so that his face was right in mine, he yelled, ?Don?t tell me my job. Just do what I say.?

Taken aback, I stumbled, ?I.. I..? Then I recovered some of my composure by mustering the anger I should have felt in the first place. Again, I tried to stay calm and remain respectful. This bull wasn?t about to master me. ?Sir, I refuse to be strip searched in front of civilians.?

He stood over me a moment longer, staring into my eyes in a silent battle for command. Finally, he said in a voice that was calm yet still commanding, ?You are doing what??

My anger had brought me back into full control of myself. I did not stammer. ?This is against the Universal Human Rights standard. It states that a human will not be demeaned or degraded under any circumstance.? I knew I misquoted both the source and statement, but I also knew he would get my point.

Or, maybe he would not. ?I am directly ordering you to strip, bend over, lift your sack and spread your cheeks.?

Silence stood in the air like a stalemate. Finally I looked away from him and once again looked at the people in the visitor?s booths. They were staring at me. They knew that something was going on over here and they watched to see what would happen next. I began to feel smaller than I had ever felt in my entire life. How should I react?

This officer was not only yelling at me and threatening me with potential segregation time, but I would also have to obey. In other words, I would have to strip down in front of those people. I would have to lift my sack up in front of those people. And, I would have to bend over and spread my cheeks in front of those people.

Unconsciously, I began to search the faces watching me. Two young women in their late teens early twenties. I remember them clearly. A women with her child in the booth following. The child, a boy, must have been about six or seven years old. And in the third booth ? the last one that was still visible from this room ? was a man who looked like he?d been incarcerated a few times himself.

Admittedly, I didn?t think to myself, ?What damage will be done to these people.? Perhaps a more conscientious person would think along those lines. For me, it was all me. All I could think about was that I would have to expose myself to THOSE people.

Officer Burton once again took a step towards me. A silent threat. My mind swirled with the decision ? segregation or strip. All at once I saw my cell and the guys on my living unit; my home and my neighborhood for the past year and a half. I saw my regular visits. I saw my job ? the best job in the entire institution; highest pay and best work environment. Worse, I saw several guards enter the room and pin me down, stripping me naked. I saw it all and made my decision.

As I bent over to remove my underwear I noticed I was shaking. Adrenaline was pouring through my veins as if it replaced my blood entirely. I felt as if I had disassociated myself from my body. Too many emotions were burning through me, not in the least a deep-seated hate with rage fringing along its edges.

I went through the motions that I had been ?ordered? to do in a mechanical way. I pushed the thoughts of the women and children who may be watching me as far from my mind as I could. Swallowing hard I stood up, my eyes never leaving his. I know he felt my intense hatred and anger. In retrospect I am sure he laughs about it to this day. I imagined him mocking my powerlessness much like a rapist rushes on the feeling of power he gets from his victims. I felt sick from my belittlement but my anger rose above it all.

I pulled my clothes back on, shaking all the while. Finally, when I was fully dressed I stood my ground once again, my power returning to me. ?What?? I choked on the emotions clogging my throat. Coughed. Then, started again, ?What is your name and position?? I demanded.

He looked over at the other officer, a mocking smile breaking his lips. ?You don?t need to know my name or position.?

?I want to make a complaint to the District Director and to the Investigation, Inspection and Standards Board.?

He turned and walked out of the room leaving my demand unaddressed. It made me more furious than I already was. I wanted to see this bull burn. I turned to the other officer and demanded from him the same information.

Eventually, I was able to get both the officers? names. Inside me I was full of turmoil. I don?t like the idea of writing anything about anyone ? especially when it gets them into trouble. But how can prisoners get anywhere? The only way we can fight for rights is to have cases. The only way to have cases is to report these actions. It took me a week to decide to finally write to the Director of Operations. Immediately following his response I wrote to the Investigation, Inspection and Standards board. There reply was dismaying. They wrote,

I have reviewed Mr. Mikulec?s (The Director of Operations) response to your complaint that correctional staff compromised your dignity by having you strip where you could be viewed by visitors. I am satisfied that Mr. Mikulec investigated your complaint and responded to you promptly. I also agree with Mr. Mikulec?s response that being skin-searched is not a pleasant experience. However, under certain circumstances, it is required and necessary. In addition, staff direction to the inmate to manipulate certain body parts during the skin-search is also necessary to ensure that contraband has not been secreted in that area. In review, I am satisfied that skin searches by correctional staff are conducted appropriately and in this case, I do not support that your dignity was compromised.

(Parenthesis, bold type and italics type mine)

The level of civilization in a society can be measured by entering its prisons

-Alexis Charles Henri Maurice Clerel de Tocqueville

A civilization isn?t rated by how the highest class is treated, it is rated by how the least of people are treated; the handicapped, the poor, prisoners. For if the rights and freedoms of the least of these are taken care of, then the rights of the entire society will also be looked after.

As inmates ? as convicts ? we are a society of our own. But, we are still human. As humans, we have rights. We cannot allow others to lessen us, degrade us, and discriminate against us. Unfortunately, we must fight for the right to be human.


Writer Bio

robert@theincarceratedinkwell.ca spent ten years in prison, but this in no way determines who he is. In fact, he is every terrible thing he committed prior to that sentence and a shining example of every change he made during and since. He speaks to university and college students on the topics of Restorative Justice and on Trauma. He also trained to become a facilitator of the Alternatives to Violence Project and participated in a similar role to connect with incarcerated youths. Besides this, he is the father of a teenager and as loving a husband to his wife as he could be.

He writes on several topics – check out his own website and make sure to look in the right hand sidebar at the many various genres that you can choose stories to read from.

blog: Mind Immerse