Art Room: Walked up

Now that the most vicious and outlandish bird hater has been transferred to another prison, I hope to convince my geese family pair to stay again on the small yard to nest.
Yet there are still a few bird haters around, so a native American brother and I are trying to get the geese to nest in their area, sacred grounds where the bird haters cannot go. I'm trying to figure out how to communicate to the geese that just 25 yards away from where they nested the first time, it's safe for them to build their home. Just this moment my geese family walked up. I must go.

Art room: Peanuts

Today it rained all day, a lovely sweet rain. My bird friends came out and shared food with me anyways. I found out all of my bird friends, crows, black birds, cowbirds, sparrows, pigeons and sea gulls all like peanuts and will venture out in the rain to partake in the treat. The peanut butter pouch was in a puddle of water yet the black birds fished chunks of it out over and over again. The geese were the only ones that did not care for the peanut butter. So I fed them the fruit and bread I had.
The weather folks had predicted a slight chance of rain after noon. Yet it had been raining all morning. Mother Earth doing her thing.
The blues band played in the art room today and practiced a batch of new songs. I think blues and jazz is perfect for a rainy day. After blues there was the R&B band, but they still have not gotten any songs down in years and seem directionless.
Tomorrow is my poetry class and we shall have a guest singer song writer come in. So we shall do a poetry/song sharing session. Perhaps, I'll even read a poem.


Prison food: Breatharian

Another new essay by Spoon, who is now writing on a regular basis for both SJRA's The Advocate and Teachers Artist Journal's ALT/space.

Yes, I know, who cares what food you feed the animals? To look at the prison menu and how the food is described, you think you are getting delicious and real food. Only what is served is nothing like the menu. It is like getting a big bag of chips with a pretty picture on the cover, but inside, only air. The so-called cheese they serve does not even melt. The chicken, beef, fish and turkey are all 99 percent soy mixed with...Read the whole essay at The Advocate monthly newsletter, SJRA1.com



Today I prepare and gather my wits, thoughts, and hopefully wisdom to write an article and to teach my poetry class. I have two deadlines. Despite how dense the tension is in the cell block, I must still prepare to go out and run my class. Despite almost getting into a fight with three other prisoners, only moments ago, I must create an article for the Teaching Artist Journal.  I have a deadline...Read the full essay at ALT/space


No Winds

Mighty strange how the dust
appeared in the desert
one day, no winds
under an orange sherbert sunset

The dust did not trickle down
from any mountains
or circle down
from the sky

It did not come
from the Dust bowl
or Grapes of Wrath
or Mother Earth

The dust appeared
from unseen places
it slows down your breath
and marchmallows your heart

There is no sense of time
no sense of speed
no sense of space
you think you are moving
when you are not
you think you are seeing
when you are not

You think you are stronger
than you are
that you could shimmy
through stone
and stroll through
cactus high flames

You think you could fly
The dust did not come
from angels
or alien ships

The dust was created
to kill
the poor and fill
the American prisons
with black and brown people

The dust was brought down
to the desert
from the cities
from white, black and brown gangs

Dust that had been
dropped into their hoods
out of no where
like manna

© Spoon Jackson 

(for Michka and Gil Scott Heron)


Struggle to be

I don’t want to give loneliness freelance to do its thing, but ultimately, sometimes it happens anyway. So long it has been since my body has been where it wanted to go. I read, write, and I long for a hug, a long walk down the beach, a hike up a mountain path, and to plant and watch a garden prosper in spring. I long to go to Sweden where I know people care for me. I ponder, I dream and wonder.

I struggle to be — yesterday, today, and tomorrow, not unlike what came before. The days seem to run into each other, like merging clouds and only yesterday, a moment ago, it seems like I was nineteen.
There was a place inside me back then, an unknown area, I went to when I started this time in prison decades ago. A place inside I did not know existed, or know now how I naturally went there each time some new prison horror, rule, or behavior required me to go to this spot.

Like everyone, everywhere in the world, upon awakening each morning I struggle to be who I am. I try to avoid the omnipresent thoughts of loneliness, boredom, death, and aloneness that are enhanced ten-fold in prison. But the thoughts keep coming.

The graying grass and dwarfed flowers have been cut and rolled under by pounds of steel. A few bees are busy seeking to pollinate the remaining damaged flowers and bring them back to life. They suckle out what is left in the bulbs.

From a barred, thick-thin, plastic window on the backside of the cell, I can see rock doves, geese, turkeys, and a couple of huge black birds — crows — poised on the edge of silence. There are only marble -sized spots in the window I can see out of, and then only if I twist and strain my eyes and body. I see out of the window where the rain has washed away some of the paint that darkens the window in the colorless wall. I hope there will be an angle for the sun to blink in through the window and share some hope.

Why can’t we live our dreams, each being in their own niche? Where loneliness and despair are like far away stars, a million light years from here. Where love, peace, and kindness bloom like sunflowers. Why must life be a dream, a moment, a utopia, a puff of smoke? Oh why must a wildflower wither and go away when the sun forever shines?

Standing in the same spot each morning, I struggle to be who I am for a day, for a moment. At dusk, the red-headed black turkey vultures appear circling closer and closer, like soft flowing kites, not once flapping their wings.

Still, I am in awe of small things: baby sparrows, crows, geese, spiders, black birds, cow birds, rock doves, and baby flowers. They make me smile, like the lovely spider’s web in the corner of the art room window and the daddy long-legs spiders in the cage outside the art room where I sit and play my Native American flute.

The sweet sunrays of winter, summer, spring, and fall warm my heart. Looking at a transparent moon in a daylight sky makes me hope. It all makes me wonder about nothing in particular. No language is required and no reason.

Published in the SJRA Advocate October 2011. Reprinted with permission of Barbara Brooks, SJRA Advocate monthly prison newsletter available free at www.sjra1.com


Swedish premiere of At Night I fly

The Swedish premiere of Michel Wenzer's documentary At Night I Fly, Images from New Folsom is November 25. It shows at Folkets Bio, an independent cinema represented all over the country. It will later come up on Swedish National TV.


Pockets of light

As I headed out of the cell this morning to the art room for my creative writing class, I walked slowly and the families of geese on the roofs of cell blocks seven and eight started to honk and shake their heads as they caught sight of me.  Four geese, already on the ground, waddled over, lowered their necks and heads, mouths open with tongues extended.  This is a traditional geese family greeting, so I did the same thing.

A little over two years ago I helped the parent geese raise their goslings on the yard, many times pulling goslings out of holes they had fallen into.  I am accepted as part of their family.  My geese family knows that each morning I will be there if I can, and that I come in peace to share my bread and fruit with them.  I also play my Native American flute and I watch them watching me, and the soothing sounds of the flute make the geese relaxed.  We sit there together and gaze at the sun.

I am out of the cell at least one to two hours before my class starts.  I cherish that time to greet Mother Earth, the sun, my bird friends, and play the flute in the mornings.  Sometimes I create writing lessons as I sit there in the jazz of the morning.  In one lesson I’ve had my class write prose and poems from the point of view of a bird on the yard, or some other animal or plant friend from their past.  Another time, I’ve had my students write a poem about autumn, or the end of summer.  In my most recent lesson I asked my class to focus on “community” and to create prose and poems from whatever angle they choose to speak.

One of my most dedicated students, Wkiri Ologun, shows in his extraordinary essay and poem on community how our writing space of realness can be framed.  This excerpt is one of the reasons why I am a teaching artist, and why hope continues to flow from behind bars:
My interest, hope and aspirations are kept locked away in my mind in order to protect the most precious thing I have, my humanity, from the corrupting forces around me.
But there is another side of prison that most people aren’t aware of: small pockets of light where likeminded people can come together and for an hour or so, once or twice a week, creating a community that is briefly insulated from the greater prison complex.  This for me has been the arts program here at New Folsom State Prison.  I currently participate in two writing classes (poetry and prose) with a small group of ‘diverse and complex’ inmates unified in the goal of fostering an environment of supportive understanding in order to cultivate craft.
This craft, writing, has been a saving grace for me, allowing me to be able to express on paper what I am not able to in my everyday surroundings.
Those pockets of light, they arrive to my creative writing classes from all the territories on the yard.  They stroll in with each of their cultures written in their walk, dress, tattoos, talk and hair styles; Latin, Native American, Asians, white, and African.  There is no other place in the prison where these men gather as one community, one humanity, and one group of writers who sit, write and converse together.

They are writers creating text they can humbly, proudly, and heartfully send home to their mom or dad, their sisters or brothers, their sons or daughters or their wives or girlfriends.  More than one student has told me how much their family and friends have loved an essay or a poem written in one of our writing sessions.

We greet, congress, and then we do our writing.  Nothing needs to be said other than: Gentlemen, it is time to write.
My Community is Safe
Away from the riff-raff and brouhaha that surrounds you; far from the interloper, the agitator, or the way layer.  My community shines with the sterling gleam of serenity; pure like fire with the warmth and comfort of an old friend.
My community nourishes the soul, with the light from above driving away shadows, rich fertile ground for my potential to grow.
My community isn’t quiet; it bustles with the vibrant sounds of life, flowing like a river roaring in my ears.
It drowns out the outside, uplifting my health.  My community is safety; a community of self.
 -Wakiri Ologun

Spoon Jackson
First published at Teacher Artist Journal's tajaltspace.com
Republished with permission from Malke Rosenfeld, tajaltspace


Prison Politics – Abolished

Should American prisons be abolished? I posed this question to some of my co-workers and students in the art room. I know a lot of free people in America and particularly in California who thinks it's just fine to continue building and filling up more prisons, and keeping prisoners who have decades in prison, and have more than served their time in any civilized society.
Some people are pissed off at being a victim of crime, and therefore think whatever happens to prisoners they have earned it, and all that is understandable.
Some white and black prisoners in the art room get pissed, when I must bring up race to show the results of a bias, inherently racist judicial and penal system, particularly in California.
One white prisoner tells me ”Spoon, blacks cannot keep playing the victim, saying they are in prison due to environmental, economical and societal reasons”. The white guy said ”Why am I in prison?”
First, I told the white guy, blacks are not crying victim and are just stating facts of a racist society, a racist educational, judicial and penal system. Racism is still so blatant now here in the USA, as if, they are still hanging thousands of black and brown prisoners on shade trees across this golden state.
It astounds me how those systems are able to turn black and brown people against people in prison of their own hue, when everyone, including the whites know that the injustice in the prison system and justice system and educational system are all race based.
Second, I told the white prisoner, every advantage, every condition in California and the USA is set up for white folks to succeed. White people are the majority in this country and set up the game plans and embed race hatred in the middle.
Conditions for failure for people of color, black and brown, have been entrenched into the American society for hundreds of years. Slavery in America has been channeled into the prison system. When the prison system was mainly white, the laws and sentences of prisoners were light and forgiving. Yes, prisons should be abolished. My co-workers say we should fix the system, because we cannot allow prisoners who have created horrible crimes to run amuck. Abolishing prisons does not mean that. You cannot fix a rotten penal system from the middle or the end. It would be like cutting the tail, the rattle off a rattle snake, you can still get bit. Prisons are made up of people, so fix the conditions that bring young people to the penal system. The educational, job, environmental and social conditions must be modified to prevent young folks from coming to prison in the first place. Prisons should be abolished and replaced with spiritual and mental establishments.
Lets start a true dialogue, pro and cons about abolishing prisons in America!


Art Room - Visiting Patio Goose

I had my writing class today, my poetry class, and one of my fellow writers decided to read a prose piece instead of a poem. He read this incredibly moving essay, sometimes choked up in tears, about a hurt goose that somehow had gotten trapped on the visitng room patio.
It had been hungry and thirsty there for more than a week, because visitng is limited to only Saturday and Sunday. It was dying, it could not honk or cry anymore. The goose paced back and forth on the outside visiting patio. Through the huge chain-locked glass door and windows, the goose could see the visitors. Brown, black and white kids gather at the doors and windows trying to scoot bread, cookies, soda water and candy under the doors.
The wardens tell the parents of the children at the doors, if they do not stop trying to feed the goose, their visits will be terminated.
The children saw death in the goose's eyes, pacing and whimpers, as surely as they could see and feel sunsets, an ocean breeze and swaying of trees. The goose died on the visiting patio.


Art room

I sat outside the Art room running the instrument check-out program, mainly guitars. It it the weekend and AA and NA programs are run inside the Art room on Saturdays.
Geese, first thing in the mornings, before the geese hater comes around, come to greet me and eat bread and apples. Baby spring sparrows come to get some crumbs.
Ken, a co-worker of mine in the Art room who runs the blues band, sat outside the fence composing a blues tune, strumming on a nylon string acoustic guitar.
Across from the Art room people are going upstairs to visiting, below the stairs the holding cells have two prisoners in them. They were cellies, one accused the other of a sexual assault. Word is it did not happen, the two prisoners just could not get along.
Monday in the Art room, there will be Marco's rock'n'roll band from 8 to 11 am, and then Ken's blues band from 11.30 til 1:30 or 2 pm. And after everyone's gone I'll sit outside the Art room and ponder and hang out with a bird or two. August 22, will also be my birthday. I use to look forward to those, and enjoy meatloaf instead of a cake.


What's a day like?

What is my day like? Nothing big, I get up at 4:30 and do my stomach work, while still on the thin metal bunk. I ponder for a moment then get down and make coffee. I get my books and paperwork ready for the art room. I get my sack lunch and breakfast is passed out. I save the bread for my bird friends; sparrows, black birds, pigeons, and geese, sometimes I save an apple or two for the geese.
At the art room, I wait outside on a milk crate and commune with Mother Earth, I wake up with her and my bird friends. I share my bread with them and play the flute for them. Sometimes humans come by and tell how splendid it is to hear the flute at dawn. Occasionally I talk to passer-byers usually about my flute playing. When that happens I get humble and shy. I prefer silence and the sweet tunes of Mother Earth.

Prison days

I spend most of the day sitting outside the art room where you see me on the cover of ”Longer Ago”. I feed the birds there and answer art questions by other prisoners or prison staff and I also run the instrument check out program where prisoners can check out guitars and go on the small yard and play them. I read out there in front of the art room, sit and ponder and of course play the flute. I commune with plenty of bird friends there. I go inside the art toom to run my prose class and my poetry class and for the book club but they don't meet that often. I also go inside for Jim's graphic art class or to listen to my co-worker's art drawing class, music theory or guitar class. I go in sometimes to listen to the small R&B group, the Blues band or Rock band. I go when we have guest poets or writers or other artists from the free world. I also go whenever there is a concert by fellow prisoners or with someone from the streets. I like working on the stage carrying the heavy stuff, but someone else must hook up the wires and cords.
Sometimes I sweep and mop out in the corridor where the art room is located. Actually I sweep almost every day which allows me to get out of the cell earlier because when I go for my finger stick diabetes check in the morning I just stay out and commune with nature before most of the other prisoners come out.
In the evenings I'm in the cell. We are allowed phone calls, 10 minutes almost every night and often in the day time. I think it would be cool to have a Twitter site if I can find someone in USA who wants to run it. Then I could twitter every day.
They count us every day between 4 and 5 pm. They no longer serve red meat and the vegetables are less than fresh. No red sugar or anything that taste good. They do allow food sales from the free world where we can get good food once a quarter (four times a year).

Delicious names

I can go off on the system and the food here is still horrible and getting worse. Soups from the store and pouch fish is what we live on, and the stuff we can get in our packages once a quarter. If one looks at the state prison menu the food sounds great with great names - delicious names, succulent names, but the vegetables have no freshness to them, the fruit is often rotten or of the poorest quality. The meat, chicken or beef they serve has no chicken or beef in it. The pancakes, waffles or oat meal mash has the same taste as watered down card-board. No citrus is served. The bread is mouldy and never fresh.


By Heart

At nineteen,one cannot grasp the depth of a no-parole life sentence.There is nothing to compare it to, other than death. At nineteen , one does not think he will do a life sentence. A life sentence does not sink in immediately. It can take seven to ten years to begin to understand. Life without parole is too big to grasp, or come to grips with, in the moment.
I sat down to breakfast my first morning in prison in a dining hall stuffed with prisoners. The noise and the mood of the place was maddening, like stepping into a huge, dark cave full of hungry bats. I could not find any familiar spot inside of myself able to relate to the bars, the concrete, and the steel, to the guns, and the guards barking out orders to hurry and eat.

I was ignorant about all prison ways. I came from the desert, the natural world – purple and red clay mountains, open spaces and there was nothing natural about cells. Even the air was tainted, and twisted with unrealness, fleeting hope, and violent unrest. I was naive, and also unconnected to any inner spirit. But my will to survive took over. I learned quickly to keep my laughter, smiles, and feelings inside and hidden behind a mask. Silence and dead-eyed frowns kept the strangers and guards at bay.
Besides, what cause was there for smiles and laughter? I had killed someone. There was nothing to talk about and no one to talk to, no one to hold my hand, nothing to dream or hope for. Never had I been so alone in a crowd. I felt I walked among bodies in one dimension while I strolled in another.
What could I compare this new life to? Perhaps the flood control tunnels under railroad station we roamed in as kids, the way those tunnels shrunk and grew darker and more suffocating the deeper we descended. Could I compare my life in prison to Campy, the greyhound that caught five rabbits, but died slowly at home under the shade tree never catching his breath? Or could I compare this excistence to hiding under our green house? I watched everything,then, a completely unseen little boy. As though I was invisible, which I wanted to be.”

Excerpt from “By Heart - Poetry, Prison, And Two Lives” a double memoir by Spoon Jackson and Judith Tannenbaum, published 2010


Suicide, I Should have known

When my friend and Peace G. Adela, told me in tears over the phone that she had lost her boyfriend, her job and her home; I should have known that she was on her way to committing suicide. From the depth of her tears, my heart knew, but my mind was not able to see it.
I knew from the tone of her voice, she was hurting too deep to heal in the moment. Still i tried to sooth her. I should have spoken to Adela all night, but no, that was impossible, because I am in prison, and we are only allowed ten minute phone calls. I missed the signs, the cues, she never stopped sobbing the entire call. I should have known when Adela muttered that she was writing a letter to all her friends and family, telling them things she had always wanted to tell them.
I have no use for cell phones, because they are against the rule in prison, but that night, for one night only, if i could have stopped Adela from attempting suicide; to hell with that no cell phones in prison rule! I would have accepted the punishment with open heart and arms.
She posted her suicide letter on Facebook. I found the news out today when I called my sister Cheri. She gave me the details on her suicide attempt. Adela, had been rushed to a larger city hospital. We still don't know her condition. I only know, that she thought it's better to be dead, and that has caused a crack in my heart.
Adela's voice and flow was so sad on the phone. She told me she was sorry to burden me with her pain and sorrow. I told her there was no burden, we are friends, real and Peace G's. Friends are there in good and in bad times, sharing a hug, unconditionally. She was hurting so deep! How did I miss the cues When I feel the sighs of a baby sparrow, pigeon or a gosling, even before they are hatched.
I had hoped our brief exchange over the phone had made a difference. I could not call back, after I realized the depth of her words. She apologised for having a broken heart, soul and spirit. Adela does not need any tough love right now as she heals. She needs unconditional love from family, friends and Peace G's in the moment. She just needs love as she heals. She just needs love.

(written June 29)


Light Pole


What is this place
I am in?
One foot in darkness
one foot in light?

What is this place?
Where dark buzzards circle
morning, noon and night ?

What is this place
I am in?
Where Amtrak trains whistle by 
unseen tracks
on the other side of the mountains?


I sit at the base of the light pole
All around me there are people
on the basketball court
Three Mexican-Americans are doing burpies
listening to soft rock music on the radio.

Across the basketball court
multi-colored Christians come together
to pray to their God.

While African-Americans slap
dominoes on the concrete tables
behind me
I sit at the light pole
reading Shakespeare.

© Spoon Jackson

Find this and fiftyfive other poems in Longer Ago - Poems by Spoon Jackson
Published: 2010

Buy at


Space for realness

My students hearts, souls and spirits long to speak, to have a voice and a quiet place, a chance to express their often unexpressed and unknown selves in poetry and prose. Sometimes, my fellow prisoners are not aware of this fact, until they are sitting in class writing. This is what happened to me decades ago at San Quentin when I trusted my gut and signed up for a poetry class.

I open my class with silent writing. This silent writing is a form of free expression on any subject. The silent period can last 20 to 50 minutes, depending on the flow of the pens on paper. Amazing prose and poetry can come from this process. Such a space to create as a group and as individuals is a rare and appreciated thing in prison.

Being a poet, a teaching artist in prison, I know the importance of this space and place to stay human, and for my students to share their own realness with their own voice. This writing offers the students a safe and cool place to bring down their masks and be human and real, and allow that what connects them to all human beings anywhere, to come out in an art form.
People not in prison would be shocked at how open, human and real these souls, hearts and spirits become to the arts when suffering or flowing through a prison existence. The arts can save you and sustain you through decades of hardness and inhumanity.
The writing helps to cope with and even prevent many tragedies, and can often create a reservoir of peace, hope and forgiveness. The power of the arts can open some up to feeling and caring again - to being human again. Perhaps, a state lost since childhood. The endless depths of that childlike love, creativity and realness.

© Spoon Jackson

Published in the SJRA Advocate June 2011. Reprinted with permission of Barbara Brooks, SJRA Advocate monthly prison newsletter available free at www.sjra1.com


Change, like a twister

Prison can change you in an instant like a twister – for a young person or first termer, it is like being thrown into a lion’s den – a cage of lions, having never seen a lion before. The young folks coming into prisons now have no hands of education, spiritual groups or job skills to grasp and hold on to as they begin their journeys down a dark path hoping to produce some light and love and a way to redeem themselves to Mother Earth, the universe, or their goddesses or gods, no matter if he or she never gets out of prison physically. True growth programs are being cut and taken away, leaving only idle time for prisoners and idle hands and no means to heal the wounds they have caused others and themselves.
Some prisoners have not yet learned or mastered the art of reading, writing and studying. No hands reaching out from art, educational and spiritual programs to start or continue their journeys or engender the learning environment within themselves needed to progress on their own. For prison can change you like a twister - and let it be for the best.

(Find this post under "Free Spoon" in the menu at the top, together with links to articles about prison politics!)


Sweet Mother Earth

I prefer silence and a long hug and kiss by Mother Earth or perhaps one of her many goddesses.
Right now the pigeons are eating the bread, and I am awaiting food from the streets. A food sale, about the only time we get real and good food. I think there is a poem or two waiting to come out. 
Not that I live to eat, but it is a treat to get some real tasty food sometimes, instead of the fake stuff they feed us. Sometimes I think I live from food sale to food sale.


Foolish dreamer

Today I finished the Libretto I am writing for my Swedish brother Stefan. We are creating a musical based on my chapters in my memoir ”By Heart” that I wrote with Judith Tannenbaum, and based on the lyrics and music from the two CD's ”Freedom for the prisoners” and ”Words of realness”. Of course Stefan and our director will create other music and flows for the piece. Stefan projects it will take up to three years for the musical to come to stage in Sweden. 
My dream, my hope is that I can attend that opening! Oh, I am just a foolish dreamer. I have dreamed I could fly. I have dreamed I could talk to animals. I have dreamed that plants and flowers whisper songs and poems to me. Sometimes I have brought them back through the doors of dreams. I have dreamed I was on stage sharing my work and wonderful things were thrown at me. I have dreamed I live beyond any kind of prisons, beyond hate and revenge. I may be just a foolish dreamer, but I'll keep dreaming beyond walls. I'll love some of you who will never love or forgive me for my past wrong – something that happened decades ago. An event you still chose to see and color your perception of my life. Forgive for your own good, your own balance, your own love and light. Perhaps, when you can forgive yourself, you will forgive me. The foolish dreamer, that will keep on dreaming beyond walls. A dreamer that believes in love as swans do.


Middle May

Today middle of May, winter is back full of thunder and lightening. Heavy storms in the mountains. Heavy rain and wind here in New Folsom, Mt. Represa, California, even some funnel clouds sightings.
I sit in front of the art room and ponder how can I be nicer and not so agitated in my dealings with folks, especially the teaching of my writing groups. I hope I don't become too jaded, too impatient to stay open and to learn and grow because we are all students and teachers... seekers and creators wanting to do better.

(New posts on the Bird Blog)


After Rosanne Cash’s visit

A guard who was one of Rosanne Cash’s escorts at the second coming of Cash to Folsom Prison, came up to me as I sat in front of the art room playing the flute and asked; would I be interested in doing a video for troubled youth. I had remembered this guard from the show and he told me how much he liked the poems I had read for Ms Cash. I was silent for a few moments as the guard continued "the video would be presented for continuation school students. Students that had gotten kicked out of regular school." I could relate to that, I had been kicked out of regular school and had to attend continuation school as a youngster. The guard asked "You are not in a gang are you?" 
"That is correct, don’t believe in them", I replied . "I am open to inspiring young folks not to join gangs or let go of gang banging". The guard assured me the video would not be exploited by media or used by the Department of Corrections to put down prisoners.
I sensed the guard asked from a real and honest place in his heart and soul. I was cool with that, and I agreed to do the video.


At night I fly - Images from New Folsom

Michel Wenzer, who has earlier made "Three poems by Spoon Jackson", a short movie with Spoon reading his poetry, that gained publicity and won a documentary movie price has recently completed a full length documentary about Spoon and other prisoners in the Arts in Correction program at New Folsom prison. It's the result of five years work. The title comes from a poem by Spoon. World premiere at Sheffield documentary film festival in June. It will later show on Swedish and Danish National Television. 


New Folsom Graduation

The vice principal asked me to write a poem again this year for graduation ceremony. The theme being “Change“. Graduation day, New Folsom, 2011, like education and art programs everywhere in the USA have been cut in most communities.
For the past six years, I have been asked to read a poem at the graduation ceremony, and each graduation class has gotten smaller each year, going from a river to a drying stream in the desert.  This year only four students received their General Education Development (GED) and one a high school diploma. There were a few certificates of completion in the remaining trade, office services here at New Folsom.
Still the graduation ceremony itself was real, and some prisoners' families were there and showed their appreciation for their loved ones' accomplishments. I enjoyed the realness and joy of the graduates and their families who came to the visiting room for the graduation. It was an honour to read my new poem “Change” I wrote for the ceremony.


Sometimes we must fail
To rise, sink to swim –
Sometimes we must be ugly
To be beautiful

The goslings fell and fell
Their first second and third
Attempt at flying

But they kept getting up
Running and dancing
Backwards and forwards
Lifting and flapping
Higher with each attempt

Sometimes we must lay
Down our pride
Like a sword
And bare our souls and hearts

Sometimes we must anchor
Ourselves in pain
To lift the veils of change

For change can come
Like a twister
Or grow steady like a tree
Sometimes we must fail, we must let go
To grow…and

One never fails when one
dares to change
One never fails when one
dares to fail

© Spoon Jackson 6 april 2011


Rosanne Cash

..more Folsom Blues

Rosanne Cash, almost tripped as she stepped into Folsom Prison Library, escorted by CDC special forces and media. I stood at the door at the back of the library as she passed by.
Ms Cash opened the gathering with how grateful and honored she was to be here, here where her father the late Johnny Cash had performed “Folsom Blues” , some 40 years earlier. She choked with love and realness as she spoke of how honored she was and then she blessed the crowd of prisoners, free staff, guards, media and prison officials with one of her original songs. Then Rosanne asked for us to share and they asked me, a poet to be the first prisoner to perform.
I walked through the crowd to the stage area and introduced myself to Rosanne. I gathered up my nerve and realness and performed “No Beauty in Cellbars” and when I looked back at Rosanne, she had her hand to her heart, she was all choked up, trying to catch her breath, as I began to say; my next poem will be “Beauty in Cellbars”. Rosanne said; “wait, I am still taking in the imagery, beauty and power of the first poem!” I paused a few moments and read “Beauty in Cell Bars”.
Rosanne compared my work, my images to Whitman and Roethke! What an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as such giant poets.
The in House blues band played a couple of tunes and Rosanne held a question and answer period. She closed with a song of her father's.


Spring dew

Spring dew March, the sun coming heavy off winter. Glaring on the once sleeping meadow.
Happy New Year and first days of the spring, Realness People.
It has been raining sweet and steady for the last couple of days, but now the sun light is stirring people’s hearts and nature with spring. A time for fresh beginning, love, life and transformation - the sweet delicious aroma of Mother Earth’s breath. I am excited and full of inspiration and joy for this blessed year. Keep the realness flowing.

My present status

Some folks are concerned that I am hurt or disappointed because I have chosen not to pursue a pardon. California Justice system has never given a pardon to any prisoner - any black man serving a life sentence like I am serving - my research has shown that a pardon would be a moot point to pursue. There are other roads I can travel to secure my physical freedom. There are forces, powers at work inside me and in the world, that are bigger than a mere pardon by any politician, governor or judge sitting in some Eiffel tower surrounded by their illusions of dispensing justice. Their prisons may be worse than mine, because their prisons are internal and hidden by pomp and circumstances. There is still BEAUTY in cell bars.
I am not tripping or loosing any sleep. I am growing and glowing and roaring and writing. I am living and loving in the moment. I am looking for a lioness just to hang out with and share a smile. Living in the moment according to the last page in my book “By Heart”. My heart is full of love. My spirit is full of realness and my soul feel hugged by you all!

Stay Real,


About my sentence

Dear Realness People!
HAPPY blessed New Year to you and may your lives prosper with love, peace, growth and realness.
Please forgive me for being so tardy with the monthly letter. I have been pondering things. My life in prison, my girlfriend having decided to move on and I do not blame her. What kind of life is this for a woman to have her man in prison? Prison life and the lack of State family friendly programs takes its toll on the woman.
This I have been pondering – a lonely, long string of thoughts.

I have done my research on pardon/commutation of life sentences in California Justice system and I don't see any way or any light at this time or even ever that California Governor and Board of prison terms, would reduce my sentence.
I guess 34 years is not enough for a corrupt racist juridical penal system in America. I have to let go – let go of the illusion that such an inhuman system could see the real. I have to let go because it has started to affect my heart and spirit, my love and realness. I am not giving up on getting out of this physical prison. I will not let unrealness, hate or revenge capture and entomb my spirit and heart. I'll always have hope, but within that hope, I won't have any expectations.

I long to live in Sweden and France and visit New Zealand and Norway, and even if that never happens that's okay too. I'll let Mother Earth continue to bless me and wrap me in her blanket of air and look upon the same moon as you do. I won't forever be blocked in this body. I'll keep my art, my realness, my pen and love flowing. I'll keep loving and believing in peace.
I don't need their pardon or commutation to be free - to be real.
Again I had started to be a prisoner to your illusion of hate, sexism, racism and classicism and not to what freedom really is.

I just want to give love and share love and be love and all the rest will take care of itself! Mother Earth will bless me with Realness.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you to all Peace G´s and to all who believe in me and realness.
Vi är en klippa!
Stay Real

Spoon Jackson