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Letter Box — Newsletter #36

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Salinas, CA


    A placemat marking the space
    In midst of crayons, pencils, felt pens, prints
    Of ribcage, pelvis, sculls, muscles
    Temporarily making a home for an oversize, green
    Tea stained cup
    And a plate filled with sweet smelling flesh
    Of dark orange papaya.
    Almost hidden, shining gray seed eyes
    Looking on silently, watching the
    Doings of that creature that is I
    Who is hiding within assignments,
    Homework, fatigue, oversize clothes, long
    Commutes, gradually becoming
    The picture on the table

Trude Zmoelnig

Birmingham, AL

Please accept my modest contribution and these words in simple pen and ink. My elderly typewriter has passed on to greener pastures and of this date I haven't embraced the current technology!


       I am here—
    encased in human form,
    occupying a small space
       in this universe—
    and yet my heart and soul
       know no boundaries,
    stretching me out
       into the skies above
       and down into the sea depths
    or circling me
       around the earth's circumference.
    And when I choose,
       I can frolic among the stars
       or play with sea creatures.
    My only limits
       the ones I set for myself.
    The sun and moon my friends,
       and every clod of dirt
       every blade of grass
    calls to me each day
    to come out and play,
    and rejoice in this freedom
    that was vouchsafed to me
    before I was born
       onto planet earth.

Jean Callahan Crowe

Marina, CA

More journal entries for and about my son, age 2.

We had a rough night last night since you are having problems adjusting to life without a crib.

Interesting to note that we, in all likelihood, are the only animals that can daydream. This is probably because we are the only ones that are self-aware. Your father and I discussed that concept tonight and could not really define it Did you know that in the dictionary 'consciousness,' 'realization' and 'awareness' use each other as definitions? What a crock, language can be so useless when it runs right smack into the unexplainable. And that is definitely the category that self-awareness fits into. I think of it as knowledge that goes beyond the boundaries of that which can be experienced by the senses.

This centers on the idea that you know you exist in a concrete world and can assess your relationship to it and to the unseen dimensions of time and space. In short, you know fully well that you are an ant on an anthill, with incomprehensible but very real elements that exist beyond your scope, elements that would be crystal clear to beings with intellect superior to yours (what is a pencil to an ant after all? Non-food and that's it.) Humans aren't born with self awareness—by observing your growth I realize this. Newborns are bundles of instinct, only the recognitions necessary for survival are in place.

The world is a vague blurry thing, full of erratic fuzzy shapes, strange sounds and weird smells. Only slowly do babies discover their physical selves and eventually gain recognition of their surroundings. For a very long time there is existence without awareness—a fugue state that some return to if senility or dementia plague their twilight years. I wonder what it would be like to live a life like that, flowing through your appointed life span without acknowledging anything but instinct. And what would we be if we were reduce to only that? Intelligent but blank like computers? Hell bent on procreation like the ephemeral, mouthless Luna Moth? Fierce and vicious like hyenas? Gentle but helpless like rabbits? Thank whatever gods are out there that we will never have to find out.

Olga Chandler

Colorado Springs, CO

I wish I could get this poem to every fire fighter in the country. Unless one is personally involved in fire, we never really realize what these men and women do for us. Now, we are all personally involved.


    Our country stands silent—
    we have witnessed fire.

    We have seen
    for ourselves the
    everyday battlefield
    of the fire fighter.

    Silent Hero's.

    Men and women—
    so willing to give up
    their own life to save another.

    How does one wrap
    the mind around such
    courage—some of their
    soldiers are missing, along
    with those they tried to save.

    In this devastation—
    silent hero's raise the
    American flag and plant it
    firmly in the face of terrorism.

    Not a word is uttered.

    Yet, with
    this single act, the
    firemen deliver our message,

    You have not won—
    you have not destroyed our
    symbol, this flag is who we are.

    the hearts
    of a nation left
    grieving—this flag
    still waves, and never
    has it looked so beautiful.

Patricia Ann Doneson

Marina, CA


    Granite, shorn of its grasses,
    bleaches in sunlight.

    A shale behemoth rises from cool blue,
    dripping kelp garlands.

    Entropy foams at the edges,
    throws itself inland.

    I meander green kingdoms,
    pluck sudden stories.

    Midas-touch poppies
    shed doubloon petals.

    Sea thrift whispers feral tales
    into waiting ears.

    Poetry bolts, spills its wild seed
    upon eager acres.


    Some people are like that.
    They split up and then they think:
    Hey, maybe we haven't hurt each other to the uttermost.
    Let's meet up and have a drink.
    —James Fenton

    Stunted simians,
    we sit at this sad bar
    and exhume the past,
    explore what still hurts,
    throbbing amputations,
    which parts remain bleeding.

    You compliment my scars.
    I admire your bruising.
    All the while, we secretly contemplate
    what untouched parts might respond
    to renewed mutilation.

    Weekly, we meet
    to remove any protective scabs,
    use mutually inflicted pain
    as communication.

    Let's review it again and again,
    probe what still twitches,
    dissect and destroy
    any overlooked wholeness.

Jennifer Lagir

Santa Paula, CA

Thank you so much for the Creative Edge News. I especially appreciate and relate to the piece by Patty Waldin (NL 35). I can really feel what she's saying!

Jemille Hardy

Carmel Valley, CA

Someone once asked me: "Why don't you draw something?" With a crayon I made a child-like rendering of a human figure. It did not lead to a burgeoning of expressive endeavor. I self diagnosed "artistic paralysis."

Nevertheless, soon after, I bought clay—the inexpensive, air-dry kind. It wasn't intimidating; things expressed themselves; all I did was squeeze. Some of the forms that emerged amazed me. This was definitely an easy entry for me through the creative portal.

Then I was invited to an art/movement class. I went, carrying my clay like a security blanket. As instructed, I worked with eyes closed, just moving the chalk or crayons over the paper, perhaps using both hands simultaneously. I might start with my non-dominant hand and finish with the other—a variety of tricks to entice the inner onto paper. It worked. I wrote my associations on the backs of the artwork using one hand and then the other. We danced our pictures or moved as the music or feeling impelled, and then did another picture. I began to trust and value the images and words, and I kept all of it because the teacher said: "It is a part of you."

One day I came across this poem dated five years earlier. I didn't remember writing it, but it had a hold on me for a couple weeks as I read it and recited it over and over. I reworked it only slightly, looking among old artwork for its origins. I found the forebears in these four pictures.

[Hermes Drawing #1] [Hermes Drawing #2]

[Hermes Drawing #3] [Hermes Drawing #4]


    Humankind races on
    pursued by the tiny winged one,
    embedded both in crystal clasp,
    in a world of artists
    where colors, feeling-fired,
    ricochet among faceted walls,
    and form evanescent mountains.
    Here creators climb
    in circuitous exploration,
    seeking the secrets of their making.

    Until ...
    Across the Sea of Aeons
    Electric Life takes up its brush
    to correspond anew.
    Lightning-ed arrows
    pierce the ancient mark.
    Meaning bleeds upon thirsty soil.
    Symbols reappear in timeless stance.
    We wend our way among them,
    silently absorbing.

    The crystal egg hangs in space.
    Time is ripe.

Sharon Hermes

Carmel Valley, CA


    I carry my own internal furnace,
    Matchlite charcoal, no fuel necessary
    to turn my bones to ash.

    Spontaneous combustion occurs
    at breakfast,
    at the office,
    at 2:37 am,
    the only warning
    a moment of irritation just before
    the flames ignite, course upward,
    flare across chest,
    paint a blaze on my face,
    Stephen King's Firestarter
    turned middle-aged,
    no longer juvenile or innocent.

    Just behind the heat
    beads of moisture sluice off my forehead,
    irrigate a swamp under my clothes.
    I blame the glass of wine I had
    before dinner,
    the pressures of multi-tasking,
    necessity of appeasing the gods
    of social convention

    but, in truth,
    it is a vital force,
    a conflagration that leaves me heaving,
    a lathered horse,
    consumed over and over into something different,
    something scorched,
    anything but passive.


    Once again

    I take Mound Meadow Trail out to the sea.
    Serenity begins to unfold
    from the sound of pygmy nuthatches
    and white-crowned sparrows.
    the press of my footsteps
    on the uneven dirt path.

    These tilted rock shelves
    and kelp-crowded coves invite
    questions that stir without definition.

    All along pathways
    rusty leaves of poison oak
    mingle with thrift and clusters of yellow mock heather.
    Rock roses, paintbrush and seaside daisy thrive
    in shallow bowls of soil
    on weathered granite cliffs.

    Thistle and wild rose co-exist
    like shore and sea,
    the convoy of pelicans flying close to the water
    and sea lion shifting his portly form
    to find comfort on a flat ledge.

    Fog cools contention
    the same way it soothes
    pines and cypress.
    Gratitude replaces inexplicable anxiety.
    I depart,
    not the same person
    who entered the gate
    an hour ago.


    It's not your eminence I want,
    not your thick brown hair
    and vulnerable blue-green eyes,
    not your swinging beaded earrings
    or silk skirts.

    I want your custom with words,
    or something like it of my own,
    some wilder canto
    playing on my fluted tongue.

    You came to your themes
    by a spiritual path, a pilgrimage
    I cannot suffer and still
    be who I am.

    It's not your academic attainments
    I want, not your elegant presence
    on stages in unfamiliar cities,
    not your soft step
    or cache of literary accolades.

    I want your shift and pivot in a poem,
    insinuations and animations,
    pliable allusions,
    cautious and daring between
    one phrase and the next.

    This is your gift,
    to stand before audiences
    and classrooms, voice
    flowing from a poem's mysterious urgency,
    showing us the radiance
    in each of us.

Laura Bayless

Carmel Valley, CA

Had it not been for Creative Edge, Doree Bart, the retreat, etc., this little piece would not been published to arrive today—the exact anniversary of Mother's death, a year ago. You probably have no idea how much your open house and open heart fosters! Thank you!


At a creative arts retreat, I choose to make a mask. With a partner, one takes turns placing damp plaster over the face, waits for it to harden, then oneself spreads plaster over the form, sands it into softness of surface. Decorating options abound. My dear friend, Laura, places strip upon strip of warm tape over my face, eyeholes and breathing space carefully created. Tenderness, a gentleness of caring, as the layers build up. My prone position helps relaxation, which slowly becomes meditative. Today, I witness my trust to allow another to place a mask upon my skin. I relax tension gathered over the recent months of great stress.

After letting the mask dry and readying it for decoration, I intentionally pass by beads and feathers and wildness of possibility and am called to the delicate watercolors. I use a simple wash of aquas, gentle blues and pale browns, then leave the mask to fully dry again.

Upon returning, I carefully hold this creation upright. One large blue tear-like drop appears down the right cheek. I place the solid mask upon my face, look in the mirror and see the face of my mother, who died a few months ago. She rested in a coma as her face softened and held the glorious delicate paleness that preceded her journey for which she was prepared, yet left a tear in her wake.

    (a two act play)

    Glory, the hospice worker,
    walks on stage wearing a red silk blouse
    and a long gray skirt,
    a replica of my theater-going outfit.

    I, too. clumsy as a witness
    to cancer's intrusion, also sought wisdom
    from lips soon to be stilled.

    My husband told me secrets:
    "Under a full moon at sea, only truth can be spoken.
    It is the same as death nears."

    I listened hard lest words slip out,
    fall to the ground unheard,
    break into evaporating syllables.

    I stored, for winter, his dreams.
    "I'm in a small village and everyone
    is calling my name, welcoming me."

    I embroidered in my mind,
    "Isn't she beautiful?"
    as he spoke of me to my daughter.

    House lights dim my reverie.
    So fully invited into the play,
    applause at the end reverberates
    for more than the actors.

Illia Thompson

DOC Westville, IN

10/13/01: Thank you Creative Edge for encouraging me, for giving our thoughts a space to be seen. Thank you for the letters, x-mas cards, for remembering us when much of the world forgot. You folks are rather ingenious. By the friendship you have extended and the psychological support and comfort found over the years in your Newsletter, creatively you have taken a bite out of crime. Specifically, a criminal I am no more, this to both my own and society's benefit... And you dare to call yourselves a "Non-profit" organization? I'd say there's much more here than a pay check...

For anyone lost in the discordant worlds of addiction, or dependence... for those in our nation's institutions, I only hope they will be fortunate enough to discover the worlds of Art and Music, of Language and Expression to lead them from The abyss.

10/31/01: (Looking forward to my parole in Oct.) I'm faced with the reality I'm a 40 year old man with zero prospects and a degree worth less in the world of academia than the paper it is written on...

While I'm not suicidal, I am a bit stuck. That is I've not a clue where to go to look for employment and with 12 years served, the selection may be slim. Will music play a part? God, I wish it could, but I must face reality. Hell, nothing is as it appears and the more in tune I get with myself the more I realize you just live and play the hand you are dealt.

I would like to teach songwriting on a novice level, I've devised some very simple ways to use metered poetry to create music. if one can count syllables, one can write the words to a tune. ItÕs quite simple. IÕve done it in various groups in prisons for years.

12/28/01: My immediate goal is my Master's from Indiana University at Bloomington. After struggling through the likes of logic, biology, physics, astronomy, and Shakespeare, I am very glad to now have all my core courses fulfilled. I have nothing but electives remaining toward my major: Labor Studies.

Personally, I would hope to score a spot inside a union representing the underdogs, and acting as a full time benefits specialist. I would help members of unions plan their futures, and facilitate their retirement by advising them on auxiliary retirement plans beyond pensions, which would supplement their union subsistence. I look forward to my release... with eleven years of sobriety I am excited embracing freedom. The prospects look bright, and baring another economic depression, I'm confident employment in my field of study will be forthcoming...

[J. Ford Drawing #1] J. Ford
#901020 E-1-E
WCF/DOC P.O. Box 473
Westville, IN 46391-0473

DOC Huntsville, TX

7/21/01: Please find enclosed for possible printing a poem, "Just A Smile Away" which is about my spiritual path in Buddhism. Maybe it is O.K. for the newsletter.

Sorry for not writing sooner but I am going through some of the worst times of my life and I have to stay very "focused" to keep from slipping back into "self-destructive" behavior. My daily sitting meditation helps me to maintain my "cool" nature or should. I say "Buddha Nature." Humans are conditioned beings and in the past I have allowed myself to become aggressive... that was because I did not recognize fear for what it was. I let fear provoke me into violent acts/aggression. But I have learned to control myself.


    As I follow my breathing
    grinning along the way
    I fall through space
    dodging comets and
    meteors reaching out
    for moons and
    planets as I travel across
    whole galaxies
    which have no right
    or wrong...
    day or night...
    rich or poor...
    it's wonderful
    living without...
    pain... greed...
    anger... desires... prejudices...

    Appears I've taken the right
    path to melt my clingings
    of false thought...
    or is this a dream?
    I think not...
    then I smile.

1/27/02: It is with great pleasure I must report our combined efforts have in fact landed me at the right place to attend Sam Huston State University. I think this is a step in the right direction. :-)


    This isn't a message in
    a bottle but...
    as I'm moving along life's path
    the problems are many,
    the pace is fast,
    and often my mind gets excited
    into a frenzy,
    however... it's a shallow life that
    doesn't leave some scars while
    wisdom whispers to shut up
    and listen,

    When it seems out-of-control...
    I sit down meditating on my
    breath, look deep inside and
    follow my heart
    because there's the Universal Truth
    that leads me to believe
    no challenge is too-great and
    this isn't a message in a bottle, but...
    wisdom whispers to shut up
    and listen,

Chester Vinton HAAS III, #327322
"CHOKYI LODRO" (Knowledge Of Dharma)
PO Box 32
Huntsville, TX 77348

Helena, MT I've appreciated continuing to receive The Creative Edge and stay relatively up-to-date on what all you're up to in the name of creative spirituality, or spiritual creativity. Another publication I appreciate very much is the quarterly magazine Spirituality and Health. You may already be familiar with it... I'm enclosed the current issue which I think you as a labyrinth lover among other things might find stimulating. Bob Holmes

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, JPEG or TIFF format.

The Editor

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