Letter Box -- Newsletter #28
ISP DOC, Plainfield, IN
I did this drawing in pencil titled "Lost Love." I drew it for a friend of mine that really enjoys my art work. He's in his seventies and the picture I used to do this drawing was taken back in the forties. He told me that he missed the chance to marry this lady and many times he's wished he did. He has been a lot of help on improving my art work even though he's not an artist he gives me inspiration.
I want to thank Levi Ford (DOC/ISP, Pendleton, IN) who wrote numerous things for your newsletter for opening the artist realm by simply saying "Ray you can do it." At the time he was telling me about my music not my art work, but I have carried that inspiration over to my art work.
I want to also thank Ed C. for showing me what he knew about drawing and giving me the shove he did. These men have helped unlock a door that was locked for many years.
In closing, I want to express to all your readers that when a friend tells you "you can do it" and is willing to help you and show you, then "go for it" for doors will open that you never knew could be open.
Ray Saunders #906379
Carmel Valley, CA
I come home from Forest Lawn. The Hospice nurse says that Dad will probably die today or tomorrow. His condition has visibly plummeted. At the sound of my voice, he jerks his head awkwardly in my direction. He apparently cannot see now, but he hears my voice and knows that I am home. Mom tells me that before he stopped talking, he asked where I was, and several times she reminded him that I was at the funeral home, and that I would be back soon.
Mom, my sister Jeni and I are in the room, sitting around his bed. We watch him breathe hard, like a fish lying on a dock. Each breath brings his head back and upwards against his pillow; his inhale is quick, and upon exhaling, his head falls down towards his chest. He is leaning slightly on his left side, and his eyes are only half open. I can see the iris of each eye; neither one is quite centered, but positioned wider than usual, pointing slightly upwards just beneath his eyelid. Like a fish pulled out of water, he appears to struggle for air, not receiving the expected oxygen upon each inhale. The Hospice literature assures us that at this point a dying person is not uncomfortable; however, it is difficult to imagine that he doesn't suffer.
The three of us are weeping openly now, afraid enough to know that hiding our grief is pointless. For roughly ten to fifteen minutes, he continues in this fashion.
Abruptly, he jerks his head upwards and to the right, as he did when I first entered the room. When his head drops back down, his chest fails to rise again. Our eyes widen in terror and confusion, not sure if this means he is dead, and afraid that it is so. But I remember what the Hospice pamphlet said. Often times the breathing intervals of a dying person become so few and far between as to appear gone, but the person is still alive. I remind Mom and Jeni of this, and sure enough, he begins the awkward breathing pattern again.
So many thoughts are flying through my head. I want to be more supportive and loving to him, stronger and more centered. Yet all I can do is weep. I try to convince myself that maybe this is what is appropriate, but I am confused. I am shocked at the sudden changes and swift approach of his death, and I question
whether I can or want to be present for it. One minute I beg him to stay; the next I beg him to go, then pray for forgiveness for both wishes, and for my lack of conviction as well.
Roughly two minutes after jerking his head up, the same awkward motion is repeated, and a single tear drips from his left eye and slides slowly across his cheek towards his ear lobe. Mom wipes it gently away with a tissue.
We notice that his chest has stopped rising again, and that, after a long, long while, it fails to resume.
We look at each other, blinking and saying, "Is he dead?" "I think he's dead." "I don't know." And of course, he is, and we weep unabashedly as the life of our father and husband is stolen mercilessly from our hands, the hands that have been holding him for such a long time.
It is not sudden, it is not long. It is both beautiful and hideous. At best, we are unsure of ourselves and our place in life. At worst, our anger and rage surge wildly from our broken hearts, threatening to suffocate us.
Not one word, not one phrase, not one account ever mentioned about death has prepared us for this moment, and for this we are both grateful and outraged, for how dare someone attempt to express any understanding of what we have just witnessed so intimately, yet how dare no one ever instruct us on how to feel, how to act at this moment. I curse Life and God for what has just happened, even as I dance in the soft-winged miracle of being witness to the single most awesome event of my life.
And what I remember most is the vacant half-closed eyes and the single tear, surely a testimony to the life so recently taken from my father.
Musings one afternoon after surgery!
Stanley R. Crump
Dagma Beth Lacey
This poem refers to the deepest part of me, my imagination and creativity, which I avoid for fear that it won't be there, that I'll find my human gas gauge on empty.
I weep to think how innured we are to the pain, to the ultimate death, of our fellow humans, to the devastation heaped daily on our environment. Our society teaches us not to feel by allowing poverty, injustice and human greed to remain a fact of every day life.
Carmel Valley, CA
I have been impatient, wanting our culture to recast its images of women and men, equalize its inequities, gather all its children under one humanitarian wing. There have been times of futility when I believed change would never happen, and the chasm in our perceptions of each other would continue to widen. Even now the magnitude of gaps between male and female, wealth and poverty, ignorance and intellect, sets of spiritual beliefs, can be overwhelming unless we focus on the simplest of reforms that each of us can achieve in our lives.
There is no turning back once you have been shown the path. Each awareness takes me a step further along the upward spiraling journey, circling through the lessons as many times and in as many ways as I need to secure the seeds of evolution within myself. I am glad to be reminded of humility in the process, of the necessity for a practical overview.
What I am learning, and in turn what I am teaching others by my example is really all I can do. I am, in some small way, distilling thoughts that may not have occurred to someone else, or could not be expressed in comprehensible form. With my words and with the love I carry through in how I conduct my life, imperfect as it all may be, I am still pushing up the soil with the tendrils of growth, contributing my elements to the next generation, and eventually returning my human riches to the earth.
Beyond those acts of existence I will never know, yet without my presence everything else would unfold differently. Each of us is a unique direction and our purpose here is being revealed as we live in a world that is both frightfully difficult and extraordinarily beautiful. Our task is to increase our recognition of how we can contribute ourselves to transformation. The smallest acts of kindness and compassion alter everything slowly and inevitably.
I struggle to acquire a sensitivity and a reverence for every aspect of life as it occurs, every joy and every sorrow, and each choice that allows for greater tenderness towards the human family.
(Madeleine's good friend and neighbor Jean Schwartz was brutally murdered on September 24, 1997. This writing came out of the experience.)
We, as humanoids, privileged with care taking some parts of this great planet, sometimes tend to forget that we are not "all powerful," not truly in control of life. We have a tendency to look only at the light, only at the pure "things" that happen to "others," not us. We do not want to see the dark--we surround our homes with night lights and security sensors, but we can still only see so far into the darkness. It is always there, containing its mysteries and fears.
If we are to become balanced humans, we must acknowledge darkness in our own human experience, and embrace it for its place in all our lives. What has been brought forward into this Canyon is the epitome of Evil--which called for the sacrifice of our purest and dearest.
Maybe we should all look at our own imbalance and denial of the Evil power. Death rarely makes sense to us, and for one so genuinely loved by so many it makes even less sense. Jean's death will be our gain if we can move tears to laughter, anger to joy, pain to compassion, hatred to love. If, from Topanga's pain, just one person can shift a thoughtless act into a helping hand, Jean's death will have as much meaning as her life.
Anne De Wees
TDC, Tennessee Colony, TX
I was, at one time, years past, one of the MOST prolific Texas Jailhouse Lawyers in this prison system... I am a GAY political prisoner who has fought a LONG, difficult battle and my career in the use of the LAW began all because I was illegally convicted in my first trial that was REVERSED and remanded On direct appeal by the Court of Appeals at Dallas on May 23,1983.
I was reconvicted to a BOGUS LIFE term that I fought all the way to the US Supreme Court who refused to hear my valid (appeal) probably because by that time I had over 20 legal actions going in the State and Federal courts of Texas.
I am a practicing yogi into Hatha Yoga and now trying to learn and practice Zen Buddhism, but I am having a difficult time doing this here and now!
This should have been dedicated to my ex-lover. The poem is all about our living experience here in a Texas prison. "His help" is GOD, or the Supreme Being or the Higher Power that rules us...
(This) was prompted when I considered just what motivates a lot of humans when they, get horny and/or hot-blooded...
Chester "Hollywood" Hass III TDCJ #327322
Thank you for your creative offerings!
I invite readers to share their own creative works with a few words about the context of their work for either the new Letter Box On-line or regular hard copy version. I look for work and comments I feel support understanding and encouragement of the creative process, and hence, the process of life.
Submit your name, city and state with your works to Donald@creative-edge.org for publication. I also encourage you to approve adding your E-mail address. Submit images in 72dpi GIF or TIFF format.