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
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.