Photo from the documentary At Night I Fly
Prison takes people away from our society, presumably to “protect” those of you not in a physical prison. The effect is we are kidnapped from one another, leaving no path of return. No oasis in the desert of punishment to water our souls and hearts to reconnect and redeem ourselves. We were stolen away and encouraged to continue to sink and destroy what humanity we have left. Everything the body, mind and souls yearns for is discouraged and forbidden. We are afforded no light in darkness, unless we each create it ourselves. We are stolen away from dreams, hope, love, sex, peace and understanding. Stolen away from hugs and kisses, good food, family, parks and travel. We are on Mars with no air.
I know you are pondering, who cares about you who took a life? Think of the worst act or wrong you ever did or condoned, consciously or unconsciously. Is that all you are or ever will be? That one moment or few seconds in time. Does that define who you are forever? Over and over again.
I am not a broken record or repeating video or news reel that keeps committing murder. It happened once, in another life time, 35 years ago and I took responsibility then, broke down and rebuilt myself. Don’t keep pouncing or harping on the fact that I took a life. It happened 35 years ago to an unenlightened, ignorant youngster, not one moment ago. Find some real reason to hate me. You do not know me now. You don’t know how deep and broadly I have suffered. Come look me in the eyes, heart and soul, then tell me I’m a murderer. This life—my struggle—is not TV, a movie, or a computer game.
I am a human being not unlike yourself. You could be me and I could be you, with one foot in darkness and one foot in the light. Yes, I killed, I was a murderer, and that one sad fact took only moments, and at that moment I was a murderer. Yet, that does not define who and what I am forever. If it did, every second I would be taking a life, every day, eternally.
The tragic deed broke my heart, spirit, and soul, and sent me tumbling. There is no pleasure or honor in the loss of life. Thick fog is forever dwelling in my heart and soul. I was broken, and felt every emotion and state one feels who has done a grave wrong. I experienced deep painful remorse, guilt, shame and sadness. I had to let go. Otherwise, I would have killed myself, by committing suicide to get from under this LWOP death sentence.
This unjust sentence serves no purpose for my victim or for me. Yet, some force inside me told me that to kill myself would be wrong and grave, as well. I wanted to live and pay my debt to society, if there truly was such a thing. I wanted to live and serve others and also forgive myself and others. To be of service was the only way to honor the life I took, and heal what can be healed. Let me out of prison or don’t let me out: no one can take that realness, connection, and truth away. No one can take away the healing I created with Mother Earth and the universe.
Your heart and soul know that people change, grow and learn how to balance their walk in shadow and in light. As time rolls on we learn to keep both darkness and light peaceful. No one must forgive me or my deed. It was hard to forgive myself for what I did. Yet, I forgive you for however deep or shallow your wrong was. I forgive you for not forgiving me. What heals best in the universe is forgiveness and love. You cannot love one another by hating. Forgiveness is a healing force, that is often stolen from us by politics, economics, hate, and revenge. You don’t condone a killing by forgiving and allowing second chances. Forgiveness is expansive and inclusive.
What have I been doing for most of my 35 years in prison? I am a mentor and teaching artist. I am a native flute player, poet, writer, and actor. Look into my eyes, heart and soul this moment and ask me about me, and not about that broken moment. I cannot bring my victim back or make things whole or right by dying in prison. I cannot twist time like silly putty, no more than you can fix the hurt I caused. I am who and what I am now, this moment. Love me, forgive me or hate me, even hang me. Hang that part of me in you that you despise so much.
You want me to suffer and when I have for over 35 years, that is not enough. Would my death be enough for you? Does anyone truly know what he or she will do at any given moment? Nothing human is foreign to any one. Look with your realness. If I have forgiven myself, who are you to not forgive me?
I am truly sorry for what I did. I am trying not to rant here, but to engage in dialogue. There must be a path, a way to exchange ideas and growth across and beyond walls. We must be able to reconnect and together inspire others, particularly youth. We must inspire them not to be stolen away from one another, family and friends and society. There must be a way back home.


Daily life in prison

April 29
At dusk, after a 90 degrees day, I looked out of the three inch by three feet tall window. My natural theatre and TV, my view of the outside world. I see a deer near the boulder tree in the tall browning grasses, already ripe for fire. I wonder, have all the geese behind the cell block flown away? I have not seen any for a while. I ponder my day, and we have no program in the art room. They cancelled everything but the last yard. They used to have the check arms after the TB testing they did this past Friday. They purposely delay and make things harder than they really are. The arm checks barely took an hour. Friday there was no program because the nurses had to count every needle used in TB testing. How hard can that be when they secure each needle in hazardous waste bins and no prisoner touches the needles, so if any needles are missing, who's fault is that? I bet if they were counting money from their fat pay checks they would not miss a cent, and no needles are missing, just an excuse to have no prisoner programs.
I started reading a poetry anthology, called Good Poems. I had forgotten how inspiring introductions to books can be, especially poetry or short story/essay books. Sometimes the introduction can be better than the contents of the book. It is like a movie trailer where the best scene is the preview. Anyways, I am inspired again to tap into my own pools of realness.
The lone deer is still outside the window in the boulder field feasting on tall grasses. As dusk darkened into night, the little spider is at rest in the window sill. Two jackrabbits play tag up the dirt road. The light over the razor electric fences forbids me from seeing the field and boulder tree full of green again.

April 30
I arose before dawn and did my six pack work out, although I don't have a six pack. I have some kind of pack. I also did my curls from the bunk and back arms. I do my stomach work as soon as I through my blanket off. As the sun came up and my tiny theatre window awakened, a lone male turkey walks up the paved prison road beside the fencing, and across from the reborn boulder tree. I brushed my teeth and washed up and made a cup of instant coffee. I sat at the window and waited to be released for work. It is Tuesday and the tower cop on this day is one who hates prisoner programs and don't like letting me out of the cell on time for work. I must wait until our art room supervisor Kari calls. So I continued to focus on the theatre and the turkeys are no longer rushing about these days. The turkey hens are sitting on nests somewhere. So the gobblers have slowed their show-boating and swagger down. It's close to mid spring now. I understand how the gobblers are missing the females. I see them here, but no courting allowed, it's torture. Moving on. I went to work and on the yard there was a fight between two gang members. No one hurt. I didn't play my flute at all today. I heard native flute playing is for courting women. I barely hung out with the Gosling Five. They are acting to grown now.

May 1
Theatre window is opened. I got up a little late this morning, so I did no work out. Actually I need to get back to jogging and walking. My heart yearns for cardio exercise. I have told myself to wait until I'm at my next prison. I'll probably do my stomach, my core work later today. The wind is blowing and gusting in places, the grasses, weeds, yellow and purple tiny weed flowers and orange poppies are swaying to the winds like listening to old blues songs. I have my prose class today and a couple of new students. Hopefully, my writing-side manners wont run them off. I can be abrupt at times. There is one deer eating something in the tall grasses. I'll do this daily log for a while, as a way to free up some realness and give folks a taste of what New Folsom prison life is like.


New book

A new book with Spoon's poems has just been released in Germany! It's number 11 in a poem series called "Versensporn", published by "Edition Poesie Schmeckt Gut, Jena". It contains both material that has not been published before and poems from "Longer Ago".
Each copy includes a DVD with Michel Wenzer's short film "Three Poems by Spoon Jackson".
It can be ordered here: www.poesieschmecktgut.de


Inspiration wanes

I have been playing long spring tunes on my flute and the deep signs have brought the Gosling Five, red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, sparrows and people by to listen. My heart longing for a spring hug.
For over three weeks maybe more my inspiration, like a fading rainbow or fading light in the sky, had waned. Although I have endless pools of realness inside to bring forth. I needed a push to open the gates of that realness.
Today it happened, three youngsters approached me as I walked up the hill to the cell block and one said; “Are you Spoon Jackson?”
I said; “You don't know that.”
I heard you play the flute.”
How do you know that is me?”
I read it in an article in the Bayviews.”
Before I could answer another youngster pointed to my flute that I was carrying in my folder.
You have the flute with you.”
We all laughed and I had to confess. The young folks' interest and questions were real.
A student in my poetry class approached me at our last blues/rock country concert and said an older poet he is in contact with on the streets, who used to come into San Quentin in the late 1980's said he knew me and knows my work, and that I was a master at what I do. That bubbled my inspiration up even more.
Finally my geese family, The Gosling Five helped open the pools of realness, and I'm writing again. I am never without poems songs articles or stories to tell. Sometimes I feel so low and I must go deeper inside to tap into that realness, and bring forth the text. The manuscripts inside my poet's heart and writer's soul. It is like a rainforest full of undiscovered creatures and plants in tune and in flow with Mother Earth. Sometimes a long journey must occur.


Important campaign message from TODPP

The Other Death Penalty Project's anthology, "Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough," (an anthology of writings by life without parole prisoners and others) will raise awareness nationwide that life without parole sentences are the death penalty and must be abolished. They need to raise $10,000 by May 25, 2013.

Read more and contribute...

"Funds raised through this campaign will allow us to print copies of this remarkable book to be placed on the desks of at least 1,000 death penalty abolitionist groups (who support LWOP as a “reasonable alternative” to lethal injection), policymakers, thought leaders, and others of influence nationwide. 

A sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) is a death sentence.  Worse, it is a long, slow, dissipating death sentence without any of the legal or administrative safeguards rightly awarded to those condemned to traditional forms of execution.  It exposes and caters to that segment of our society that believes redemption and personal transformation are not possible for all human beings, and that it is reasonable and just to forever define an individual by his or her worst act.  LWOP is wrong and should be abolished.

The Other Death Penalty Project (TODPP) is a true grassroots organizing campaign comprised wholly of men and women sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, the purpose of which is to end this practice of sentencing tens of thousands to a slow and painful execution in this nation’s maximum-security prisons through a peaceful, well-orchestrated and thought-out plan to change hearts and minds. TODPP’s ultimate goal is to see the permanent end to the use of this form of state-sanctioned execution (along with all other forms), resulting in all life term prisoners having, at least, the possibility of earning parole.

We need $10,000 to pay for printing, postage, and mailing costs for 1,000 books, as well as for targeted advertisements and book contest entry fees.  It costs $4 to print each book ($4,000), an average of $3 per book in postage ($3,000), and approximately $800 in office supply costs (mailing envelopes, paper, tape, etc.).  The remaining $2,200 will be used to place targeted ads in print and other media and enter “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough” in writing contests which will garner additional publicity for our cause..." Read more and contribute...