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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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Granddaddy, The Lakers, and a Poem

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Freddie Lee

5 am. Surrounded in silence, he bathes.
thinking of all the things he can do. he
lathers, shaves, and drenches himself
in Obsession. the burgundy Olds
is spotless and it’s time.

seventy-one years have not slowed his pace.
he still speeds like a man of twenty-three
barely stopping at lights and signs, never
failing to honk at those who drive too slow.

He drives everywhere. exhaling Benson & Hedges
going to airports, and banks, and hospitals, praying
with the sick, delivering communion, rummaging
junkyards for new mirrors, and it’s amazing
how much gas he burns each week.

Granddaddy never sits still
unless it is to listen to Chick Hearn call the game
or watch John Wayne ride into the sunset,
victorious, having conquered a world,
my grandfather has never seen.

(c) me. 2003


my grandfather passed away the summer i moved to New York, a day after his 74th birthday. my mother and I were actually in NY at the time trying to find me an apartment. he had been struggling with brain cancer for most of that year. his decline was startling. he went from a vibrant 73 year old man who still preached, served communion, and drove all over the city for God knows what, to a man barely able to feed himself. i hated to visit him in the hospital. not because i didn't love my granddaddy, but because i couldn't bare to see him like that.

my granddaddy loved the lakers. love to hear Chick Hearn call the game & wrap their win up in jiggling jello and hardened butter. we would watch together and argue over Eldin & Vlade. we would watch as Robert Horry would will us to win with yet another clutch three pointer. we watched as Kobe & Shaq embraced after they brought the crown back to LA where it should have stayed all along. and we watched as three parades marched through downtown, signaling victory.

it's coming up to the 5th anniversary my granddaddy has been gone. and the lakers have gone through many changes since them. they've lost, Shaq left, they gave us some hope, only to lose again, but now they are back on top. as i watch them today, i am still proud. still a diehard laker fan, but i can't help but feel a bit of emptiness. my granddaddy would love this. he would love the new players & the excitement they bring. he would love how Kobe has finally begun to share the ball. and he would love that they are on top. i hope they go all the way this year...not just for our city, and the fans, but for my granddaddy. it's been far too long.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:11 AM 8 comments

Every Child Is A Poet

Friday, April 18, 2008

last night we had open house at our school. typically open house is a time when teachers display all of the creative/excellent projects students have completed throughout the semester. in honor of open house & in honor of National Poetry Month, my students created poetry collages. before open house began i hung them all outside of my classroom under the heading, "Every Child Is A Poet," which is the title of the Piri Thomas documentary.

because I am sharing poems this month, i'm going to share a few of my students' work. i hope you enjoy them as much as i did.

ps--for all images, click on them for a lager view.

"looking for love"

"king of love"

"my los angeles"

"anywhere but home"


Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:19 AM 7 comments

don't you know?

Friday, April 11, 2008

dear student
(an apology)

and it's not your fault
fucked up and thirteen
i mistook your pain
as attitude misread you
and flashed righteous like
you should know better

we did not get it
raised voices spit
pain and accusations
in mixed-up directions

but it's not your fault
you didn't know
i expected so much
wanted you to carry us
deep into the future
wanted you to live
for all those that could not

instead of telling you
about your genius      again
i told you to leave
and not come back
until you know how to act

(c) me. 2008


my mind is racing. i just finished watching, "A Live Conversation on Race" on MSNBC and i am feeling so...conflicted. i am trying very hard to unpack all that was discussed: the effects of slavery, the doll test, systemic racism. my heart and my head are heavy. this round table discussion made me feel like i was misreading my students & not quite meeting their needs.

you see, today was one of those days. i'm usually a patient person, i don't do very much yelling in my classroom, i try to deal with my students reasonably and with respect. but today *sigh* i flashed HARD on one of my students. she constantly annoys me with her actions and her choice to not meet her potential. she is very smart, but acts dumb to fit in. i can't stand that. i wish she were comfortable enough, wise enough to know that BEING SMART is a great thing. i wish she knew deep deep down to her core that dumbing herself down isn't cute. today she worked my nerve to no end & i told her that i didn't want to see her anymore until her momma came to talk to me. i said a few other things (no expletives tho), but i was SO hot. honestly, i wanted to slap some sense in to her, but the munchkin already has one parent locked up, so i'm cool. but as i think back, and as i think-through all of the conversations the panelists engaged this evening, i am a bit ashamed of myself.

my students struggle with a myriad of issues. i am a big advocate of personal responsibility, so i try to get them to take responsibility for their actions. but how can i expect my students to know right from wrong, to see the value and importance in education, and to see the absolute genius within themselves if no one ever tells them it is so? how can i try to convince them that they can accomplish the impossible if they live in a world that does not value black/brown genius? my kids are scared. they come from homes with absentee parents, and i suppose, they will take any ounce of attention they can get even if it's from a tired, worn-out teacher yelling at them. at least they know somehow hears them. someone cares?

i am still dealing with the conversations of tonight, but i felt i needed to apologize, even if only in poem form, to my student. on monday i will try to smooth it out, tell her why i was frustrated. it's not because i don't care, but rather it's precisely because i do. i'm human. we all fall short. i pray she is able to really hear & understand what i'm saying and that i'm coming from a place of love.

i went into teaching not really expecting to get emotionally involved. i'm pretty even tempered and nothing really stresses me out. but these kids, lawd, are a whole 'nother animal. each of them has become my own. i worry. i shake my head. i pray. i love. and hopefully, a few years from now they will be in a better place. hopefully they will be responsible adults. hopefully they will walk away from my class knowing that they are valuable, and someone cares.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:26 PM 10 comments

Now Hair This!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Healing Improvisation of Hair
by Jay Wright

If you undo your do you wóuld
be strange. Hair has been on my mind.
I used to lean in the doorway
and watch my stony woman wind
the copper through the black, and play
with my understanding, show me she cóuld
take a cup of river water,
and watch it shimmy, watch it change,
turn around and become ash bone.
Wind in the cottonwoods wakes me
to a day so thin its breastbone
shows, so paid out it shakes me free
of its blue dust. I will arrange
that river water, bottom juice.
I conjure my head in the stream
and ride with the silk feel of it
as my woman bathes me, and shaves
away the scorn, sponges the grit
of solitude from my skin, laves
the salt water of self-esteem
over my feathering body.
How like joy to come upon me
in remembering a head of hair
and the way water would caress
it, and stress beauty in the flair
and cut of the only witness
to my dance under sorrow's tree.
This swift darkness is spring's first hour.

I carried my life, like a stone,
in a ragged pocket, but I
had a true weaving song, a sly
way with rhythm, a healing tone.


(me, on the way to work.)

black women & hair is as complex as astrophysics, as deep as the atlantic ocean, and as contentious as discussing affirmative action. our hair, just as our bodies, have been agonized over, objectified, and gentrified to suit the needs of society.

even with all that surrounds us, we manage to do our 'do in countless ways & look FABULOUS in the process. my hair has been natural (sans relaxer) for some years now. i decided to stop relaxing my hair back in college, just to see how my natural texture felt. i'm not one of the militant ones that argue that ALL black women should just let their hair be. i feel like we are intelligent/complicated women. we should have the right to choose our hairstyle based on our personal tastes. i DO have a problem with those that ask, "why don't you get your hair pressed? it would be so cute!" as if my natural kinks ain't cute.

honey, i'm FLY. so i let it be.

anyway, i love this poem & i wanted to share it. bless!

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:47 PM 7 comments

sunday & a poem

Sunday, April 06, 2008


our discourse ended
cut short by a synthesized voice
signaling the end. time never seems
to meander when we speak. it sprints.
running away from all the things we need
to say, as if it can only handle so much.

yesterday, the sun rose orange
and early and i pretended to wake you
kissing fingers to lips, whispering hello.
your early morning grunts overwhelm
my memory, filling me with a sense of longing

today is not starting out right.
you are not here. and you will not be
curled up inside me anytime soon.

(c) me. 2008
i spoke to beloved yesterday for the first time in a week. he is...ok, all things considered. still having issues with the COs, so it looks as though i will have to move further into advocate mode. i am learning so much about what it truly means to be committed. i never thought this would be my life. even joked with him that i'd totally NOT stick by his side had he ever found himself on the wrong side of a prison, but life changes. five years, and a son later, this is our life....FOR NOW. *sigh*

last night i went to a party for the first time in YEARS. when i say party, i don't mean a gathering of boho types listening to jazz & reciting love jones quotes (oh, you know what i'm talkin bout!), i mean a Divine 9, KAPsi frat party. back in the day, my sands and i were ALWAYS at the center of attention at these parties. we strolled deep, (innocently) flirting with frat and just having a good time. last night officially sealed it: i'm old LOL. i didn't even know HALF of the new sorors who were there, and the Nupes...they were way more energetic than i remembered. i had a good time though. i was still able to keep up with the Neos, learned a few new strolls, and enjoyed seeing people i haven't seen in years.

how was your weekend?

& don't forget to share your poems in the comments section. shout out to LoveBabz & Stephen Bess for posting poems for National Poetry month!

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 7:00 PM 8 comments

Feel This

Friday, April 04, 2008


by Wanda Coleman

there is no one here but me. from behind this glass
i see the guard's station. prisoners are watched
on TV monitors, a camera in each cell. if i move,
i see the wisp of my movement on the monitor.

i am here through no fault of my own as a result
of doing more for others than for myself. all the guards
are men. they can watch me undress and make my toilet.
they can watch me caress myself in my nightmares.

there is a pay phone in the prisoners' rec room
that does not take coins. communication is futile at worst,
faulty as best. i have learned that i am friendless.
no one has sympathy for me. i have learned
that misplaced trust can dismantle a life

as a result of this punishment, i have learned
it pays to be more selfish with desire.

memory divides me against the light


i was browsing some of the books i own when i stumbled across this poem. it speaks to my life, beloved's life. i haven't heard from beloved in nearly a week. the last time we spoke was Saturday morning. he's been having some trouble. he's been depressed. he's being sort of harassed by the COs.

last we spoke, he told me they cut off his electricity and water. i suppose this is "normal" when they are trying to "make a point." you see, even in prison, beloved refuses to be treated as less than a man. i can understand. his situation is precarious. he doesn't want to jeopardize coming home, but he doesn't like being talked to any which way. he will speak up. he's filed complaints about his treatment, and that's just not something that's looked upon favorably.

the power dynamics within a prison are astonishing. it's amazing how people feel superior to you, simply because they have some authority. you can feel it in the visitor's room. you can feel it in the way they speak to us (visitors), the way they look at us suspiciously, as if we are guilty by association.

i hate visiting. i hate prison. i hate that this is our life. i want beloved home, like yesterday. i want our son to have his father. i want to cook dinner and go to movies and walk in the park like everyone else. i want so many things and it seems as if everything is put on pause...indefinitely.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:05 AM 4 comments

Ohm: Meditations On...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Few times in my life have I been completely mesmerized.

In 1999 while channel surfing, I came across this man and his poem on the PBS documentary, “I’ll Make Me a World*”. Saul Stacey Williams completely blew me away. I had never HEARD a poem sound like that before. Never heard a man beat-box in the middle of a stanza. Never heard words strung so dangerously together. Never felt any energy like this from any poem, I’d ever read or studied. I was awestruck.

In an instant, my entire view of poetry changed. Until then, I thought emcees had all the fun. I thought they were the only ones aloud to ride beats with words, but Saul Williams switched up my whole thinking. Soon I began seeking more. Back then, we didn’t have you tube, but the Internet was just starting to be BIG (for me at least), so I searched and searched and found everything I could find that he wrote. Time after time I was blown away, and was sonned by his immense ability to pair word and emotion and my inability to mimic it.

Fueled by this newly discovered muse, I practiced. I wrote. I recited poems, and I found the courage to actually perform in front of groups of people. Until then, poetry was something I did privately. I did not share my words. I did not declare myself a poet. Until then I was stuck, conversing only with myself and my psyche, afraid to share my voice because I thought people wouldn’t get it.

But they did.

And here I am. A degreed writer. A blogger. A poet. I used to be afraid to call myself a writer. I never thought I was worthy of the title, as if writers were only those famous ones we’ve read in English class.

But I am
indeed a writer
living in papyrus
with pen and paper
always within reach


**If anyone knows how to get a copy of this series (I'll Make Me a World), PLEASE email me. theprisonerswife at gmail dot com. thanks

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:04 AM 3 comments

so, what is it?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

what is poetry? (when enough is too much)

breaking windows
with words, grinding
rough diamonds into amethyst rocks
trying too hard
to reach inside        thoughts
sweating themselves about how deep
they pretend to be       poets
trying to bottle them as butterflies.
when enough is too much,
who can be the judge?
what is and is not       art
pretending to be God
pretending to be man
where the divine
and the blasphemous
do lunch at Sylvia’s, arguing
who is more
in touch with the people.

(c) me. circa 2003. harlem, ny.
poetry is something that many attempt to define, but rarely come close to doing. what is a poem, exactly? by definition it defies such confinements. even its strictest forms allow the poet room to play and push the envelope.

this year has been my first year teaching creative writing, and as a poet, it's been an interesting experience. teaching writing, of any kind, is a bit trying. i am a natural writer (did i just type that OUT LOUD?). i can hear things others do not. i know when a line, a sentence, an essay is right because it SOUNDS right, and that fine-tuned ear is not really easy to explain to others less familiar with the rhythm of words. this semester i've been teaching my kids about poems. all kinds of poems. yesterday, we explored limericks (they had a good time trying to write those). prior to that it was the sonnet, the tanka, and the villanelle. in working with the kids, the thing that i consistently notice is that they either LOVE writing poems, or they are completely frustrated because they "are not good at writing poems," whatever that really means. when my students hit roadblocks and start to psyche themselves out, i try to tell them to relax and not think so much. over-thinking it has been the death of many a poem for me, so i know it must be killer to them. they come to class with their preconceived notions of poetry: it MUST rhyme, it has to have short (or long) lines, it's really, really hard to write. it is my job to help set them free.

writing for me is like...breathing (or fighting, or fucking, or living, or_________). it is a means to express all the things i wished i had the courage to say to people's faces. it gives me a voice, power, agency. it affords me room to live outside of the world i see everyday. for my students, i want them to see the power they have within to create. at 13, many of them are dealing with SO many issues i never thought of back then. they need an outlet, other than older boys or their neighborhood corners. they needs this (words) more than they actually know.

as readers, what do words, and specifically poems mean to you?

April is National Poetry Month, and as a poet, i'd be remiss if i did not acknowledge & celebrate it. over the course of the next month i will share some of my favorite poems by my favorite poets, dig into my own poetry crates, and maybe write a little something new.

i encourage you
to do the same.
share with me.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:01 AM 8 comments