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Letter Box -- Newsletter #28

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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 image]

Ray Saunders #906379
ISP DOC, 727 Moon Rd., Plainfield, IN 46168-9400

Carmel Valley, CA


The glass full
now empty
Pick up water
Wring it out
Squeeze into hands
of pink transparency
Lines of fortune disappear into water
The sinew of time
pulled by magnet
Gravity washes the heart
Heart of hand
hand immersed in mud
Mud of life
draws up
to turn into hands
Mud dissolving
into cycle of creation.

Paola Berthoin

Monterey, 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.

Jeff Jacobson

Salinas, CA


Why does Summer go so fast?
Warm, gold days slip quickly past.

We who have no kids in school,
Want to read books by the pool.

Children enjoy flashlight tag,
No school night, no one will nag.

Brilliant sunsets at the beaches,
Pies and yogurt topped with peaches.

Why does Summer go so fast?
How I wish that it would last...


Sally Polle'

Cedarville, CA

Musings one afternoon after surgery!


Anger, frustration--
somewhat enjoyable!

Got both--damaging!
let it go & just be!

Death came close but veered off,
not needing to rush, will return later.

Appreciate this time!

I'm still strong,
just not as strong as I was.

How slowly this happened;
invisible to me when younger.

Now so clear. I'm determined
to use my strength well.

Jerry Blanchard

Corralitos, CA


I submit
A few choice words
That show
The style
Of poetry
I write.

I don't profess
To be the best
Only one
Who writes
The best I can.

Sometimes with a jest,
Hoping to promote
A laugh,
About the
Fate of man.

The works enclosed,
A poem from years past,
And one I wrote
Just yesterday.


Hear the muse,
If Poet you would be
The words you say
Are Poetry.

Cleanse your mind,
Release all thought
That blocks the light,
Listen to your heart,

And Write.


We try
To find our way

Through this maze
That we call life.

We stumble
In the potholes

That create Persistent strife.

So it goes
From day to day,

Leaving us
With stress and strife

When we stumble
In the potholes,

As we try
To find our way,

Through this maze
That we call life.

Stanley R. Crump

Valleyford, WA


I floated in the memory of everything,
floating in the weightless energy of always...
It was there Mother Mary came to me
and opened her arms...
Embracing the shapeless form of who I am
she said,
"Grace I give you my child,
from the warmth of my womb."
I sensed the glory of all time in that instant...
I saw who I am...
In the likeness of the one day.
I am in all, all is in me.
Sophia lives...

Dagma Beth Lacey

Monterey, CA


". . . and to the East of the garden of Eden he stationed the cherubim and a sword whirling and flashing to guard the way to the tree of life." - Genesis 3:24

We are exiles---------tasting the sweetest fruits
Longingly sigh for the lost increase
And when you think you have found it
feel the sword passing through the space between you and your desire
hot and flashing like the night-bird's weeping
baring your soul to you in a moment of shame

We are exiles---------tasting the sweetest fruits
Oh most golden and exuberant
And having forgotten them with our conscious minds
remembering the cycle of birth and death and the lunar decrees
of the forest creeping through the memory like a trilling stream
carrying the moment with you in its purl

There have been times I felt my hand upon the sword's hilt
Ready to grasp its infuriating sting
And wield the way free of obstruction
Only to be thrown to the ground and see the angel's passing
hem of a gleaming robe air-swirled
hearing the whispered memento mori

We are exiles---------tasting the sweetest fruits
And after tasting the bitterness of sweetness lost
Lifted again by some momentum to the dawn of awareness
Hoping that soon the full sun will shine
The whirling and flashing becoming a light show
The echoes of loneliness and fate fading shadows

Wes Lovette

Monterey, CA

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.


Where is the flame I long to feel?
How do I fill the void so wide?
Not children, nor possessions count
Are foreign lands then paramount?
Why do I search outside myself?
Ignoring what lies close at hand
When inward dwells a field so vast
Which, lacking faith, I fail to see
And so my life plods on, not free
A vast, relentless mystery.

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.


How can we lie so still?
While all around us
Chaos shouts and tells us
To beware

Why don't we rise as one
To let our anger
Pierce the air
Force history to our will?

Who taught us not to speak?
To tremble in our skin?
To do as we are told?
How can we lie so still?

Duffie Bart

Carmel Valley, CA

A Journal Entry 2/22/98

"There are no shortcuts in creation. Things happen by the planting and sowing of seeds, and do not appear all at once. We must have the humility of spirit to recognize how small, in a sense, is the success we can achieve in a single lifetime. We cannot do it all. But what we can do is set things in their right direction, and I think that is beginning to happen. As we do that, since life is universal and we do not control it, something far greater than ourselves beings to work."

Laurens Van Der Post--A Testament to Wilderness

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.

Laura Bayless

Topanga, CA

(Madeleine's good friend and neighbor Jean Schwartz was brutally murdered on September 24, 1997. This writing came out of the experience.)


Seven months and seven days without a
drop of rain,
then the Heavens opened up to try to
wash our tears away.

Seven months and seven days till Nora
came into our lives,
Just to Bless Jean on her journey
on that horrible last ride.

When the heavens took to weeping, oh,
how little did we know,
they prepared to carry gently back
our loved one, from below.

May Jean rest now in the heavens
in that place she earned on Earth,
amongst the purest of the special ones
who'll know eternal peace.

And me?
I sit a crying,
crying ever for my friend
and for this Evil that I now know
that has torn my world apart.

For I must face the future now
with knowledge of this force,
that walks so free amongst us all,
and, I must change my course.

For I vowed beside your deathbed, Jean
I promise by this pen,
that Topanga will avenge you,
our fight will not just end!

We will know who you were to us.
We will fight for what you lived for.
We will know just why it happened.
We will know just why you died.

Prepare to battle evil now.
Prepare to take the sword.
For Topanga stands for many things,
and you, Jean, we ADORED.

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.

Madeleine McNeil

Portsmouth, NH


Dad's aging children
trudged along
the frozen shore,
his aging children
bundled up against the cold,
binoculars at the ready,
monitoring the sea ducks.

Friday afternoon, they walked
through Dad's water color,
the one where the low winter sun
dropped through slate skies,
and set the marsh on fire,
orange and gold.

Saturday, they moved
into his pencil sketch
of a gray day,
muted, monochromatic,
a lone quahogger
and moored boats
in the still waters
of Ryders Cove.

Sunday, they took
a last stroll
through his dazzling seascape
of Pleasant Bay.
(Dad said
the effect was achieved
by rubbing a wax candle
over the paper.)

They walked
familiar paths,
seeing his world again
through his eyes.

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!


I found you
after tedious
and diligent s-e-a-r-c-h-i-n-g,
years of dead ends--
lost trails--
wasted efforts--
endless waiting--
lonely nights--
sleepless nights...
only to end up
poring hard-earned,
good money down the drain,
good money spent on that
suspicious, initial excitement...
now I'm here alone
thinking about how we agreed it would be
sorry, my honest mistake...
no time for tears.

I found you
and spent good litigations trying to
keep them out of your pocket--
my own work, writing, creativity and
whole life put aside
just to serve you--
s-e-r-v-i-c-e you--
yes, I thought it was my social duty,
the legal work that is...
at night when I lie my weary head down
on the pillow...
I whisper a prayer asking his help
to mollify the heart sickness and
to work miraculous wonders with what
I have d-e-e-p inside...
a whole lotta L-O-V-E...
sorry, my mistake...
like--love are not interchangeable...
no time for tears.

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...


Dreams are what...
we have in everyday bits & pieces,
plus, all your hopes, fears, &
fantasies for a driving life force.

Dreams are what...
we drift to when our anchorage in
mundane reality grows less secure
made unbearable by apprehension & expectation.

Dreams are what...
we usually want--
a big production with plenty of
intensity...dirty, thrilling action.

Dreams are what...
we escape to when we want
to satisfy our seemingly
insatiable appetites.

Dreams are what...
we desire when the affair goes sour--
exhausting, poisoned love...
another passion play extravaganza spent
at emotional expense.

(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
Coffield Unit M-414 cage
Tennessee Colony, TX 75884

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.

The Editor

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