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

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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.