At Table with Granny (April 3, 2002)

My grandmother loved language; she loved words and, having been blessed with a classic education that included Latin and Greek as well as French, she spent much of her life reading with a handy etymological reference guide inside her own head. When she was in her sixties, she decided to read the New Testament in […]

Race, Beauty & ‘Good Hair’ in Prison

“I hate my hair!” Who hasn’t heard a woman utter this grievance at one time or another? In prison, it’s a universal complaint, a woeful acknowledgement that, whether curly, straight, kinky, or gray, most women bewail the status of their locks. Those comfortable with their hair in its natural state include the “boys,” those masculine […]

Anthrax, Ghosts & Dominoes In Prison

Revenge is an airborne disease in prison, one that seeps beneath the skin and pervades the atmosphere like a deadly fog. An inmate’s honor, once impugned, seems to require action, and the most common method for redeeming one’s “face” is an act of revenge. This response can involve mild name-calling, bullying, a few dirty tricks, […]

Wet Dogs & Blood

In the bad ol’ days, when this place was a mental institution, the 15’ by 15’ outdoor space on each wing was called the “Smoke Pit.” Today, the official sobriquet is the “Fresh Air Pit.” No matter what politically correct name the administration gives it, we inmates still refer to it as the “Smoke Pit,” […]

Prison Tornadoes

We can’t see the city of Decatur from inside this prison, but at 9:30pm, we hear the city’s sirens wailing in the distance, alarms that signal the worst disasters: floods, fires, plagues of locusts, nuclear attacks, and, of course, tornadoes.

My Wild Idaho

Am I wild? Am I a free spirit — a woman who runs with wolves? Or, is it all merely a metaphor, something that can never be realized — a fantasy that can never be true? Is my version of nature only a romantic conception of Native American vision quest and animal totems decorating me […]