Our 1/11/18 Reading at Northern State Correctional Facility


On January 11, 2018, our writers at Northern State Correctional in Newport, VT, gave a reading from their work. Since you couldn't be there, we are sharing the work with you. It's honest, courageous, beautiful writing, and it even has a sense of humor. Please read and share.


Finally, I Understood the Truth

I finally understood the truth

When I checked into Maple Leaf Farm.

I was gathered with

Many suffering alcoholics and drug addicts

Just like myself.

I finally understood

That I was not any better

And in fact, I may be worse than some.

I sat around meeting to meeting

Not sharing my own personal

Struggle with addiction,

And just listened and tried to

Compare myself.

Even though I knew I shouldn’t

Or shouldn’t have,

I’ve always looked down on people

Who I thought or believed

Were less than I was.

Now I’ve taken some time

In my sobriety

To actually listen and compare

Myself to others.

Finally, I understood the truth.



If I Were in Charge

If I were in charge of inmates

I would be more lenient

for such reasons of knowing that we are all people

and we make mistakes! 

It’s human nature,

and an officer may have done the same things

as an inmate,

they just have not been caught. 

I would work to see that an inmate was properly treated

physically, mentally, and medically,

I would also help them with any lack of communication

between one’s caseworker and/or family. 

Many of us have worthless caseworkers

and due to lack of or miscommunication

things are neglected or never done. 

I’d also like to see a better re-entry program

for people that are being released

that have addiction or pain issues

that are getting released with no prior planning or set-ups

such as medical assisted treatment

or whatever it is they may need

to successfully make it out there. 

That’s just a few things I’d do if I were in charge.


The Toughest Decision I've Ever Made

Well I have to say
the toughest decision I've ever made
was me coming clean to my family and friends
about me being 1) gay and 2) a transgender female.
I feared discrimination, disrespect, and lots of criticism.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy for me
at school or public places
and I feared about what
my home life would consist of as well.
I chose to go to my guidance counselor at the time
and over time slowly explained myself,
for her to tell me everyone deserves
to be loved the same no matter
who or what they were
and some people can stay in your heart
but not in your life
and if they were not willing to understand
and take you for who you were
they didn’t deserve to have you in their life.
So that was the toughest decision I ever made.





A Morning When I’m Using

...Well, I don’t use to the degree that some people do, perhaps—

but after a hard weekend of drinking

I have woken up some mornings

and noticed that I could brush my teeth

just by putting toothpaste on the bristles,

stick the toothbrush into my mouth,

stand there and let the morning shakes do the work.

Invariably, by Tuesday the shakes would be gone

and I’d be looking forward to my next hard weekend!


A Morning Clean and Sober

Refreshing, exhilarating, healthy, happy,

energetic, guilt-free, motivated,

more money in my pocket,

I know where my wallet is,

and my teeth;

the air smells fresher, cleaner

and the bacon, eggs, and toast

make my stomach happy too;

the kitchen is clean,

there are no beer and whisky bottles

on the table, floor, couch,

no cigarette burns on the table

and the ash trays aren’t overflowing. 

I feel a sense of self-control. 

I’m ready to go to work. 

I don’t stink of alcohol

I’m clean and sober.



When Winter Is Finally Over

 When is winter finally over? 

When I damn well want it to be! 

I friggin’ hop in my brain plane and go to

Florida, the Bahamas, or Spain

where the rain falls mainly on the plain. 

Winter is finally over when Robin,

my favorite bird,

perches on my windowsill and chirps at me! 

I give her some breakfast, bacon and eggs,

with a cup of coffee,

and we both sit and enjoy the warm spring morning. 

I watch her and she watches her husband

building a house in a nearby tree. 

I go out on the wet sidewalk

and gather fresh worms

from last night’s rainy evening. 

The road smells like kerosene

and has pretty purple and blue colors.

When winter is finally over.


Morning in Prison

Every morning I wake up in prison it’s the opposite of being adjusted. 

I never want to wake up in this kind of a different world. 

I never knew what it was like in the morning in prison

but I open my eyes up anyway. 

I know soon I will open my eyes up one morning

and it will be daylight for sure. 

And that will be a morning not to forget. 

This place is like the morning after. 

It’s just in my head and won’t go away until the daylight shows again.



The Toughest Decision I Ever Made

 The toughest decision I ever made

was to give up on my wife and her addiction to alcohol. 

I had tried so hard

and loved her for so long. 

The question was in front of me

all the way through,

dealing with the lies, cheating, having wrecks after wrecks. 

She even wrecked in our driveway on my plow truck. 

She blamed me for everything that went wrong. 

I thought something was wrong with me,

but all the time my love for her was blinded by her drinking. 

She didn’t want to give up drink

and I didn’t want to give up on love. 

It was the toughest decision I ever made.


When the Rain Fell, It Brought Back Memories

 When I hear the rain falling on my roof I sit there

and enjoy the sound of it hitting the roof. 

I sit and think of the past

and what it meant to have

a past of the rain cleansing the world. 

The rain as it was falling on the roof

was so peaceful that it brought memories

of when I had trouble sleeping,

but the rain would be there as a medication,

a good way to get to sleep.


I Am

I am a kind, loving person.

I wonder what my would be like if

I was never in trouble.

I hear the wind blowing through the trees,

I see a bright, colorful life in the future.

I want to have a rich life.

I am a kind, loving person.


I pretend I am free.

I feel the wind blowing through my hair.

I touch the sweet life of freedom.

I worry I will be alone for all time.

I cry being locked up in jail.

I pretend I am free.


I understand why I am here.

I say I did it and I am sorry.

I dream of going fast as I can down dragstrip.

I try to deal with what I have done.

I hope I still have loved ones.

I understand why I am here.



Pain comes from

Anything and everything

From love to tooth.

But there is one thing

That is

Pain lets you know

You’re alive.



I Will Never Forget That Christmas

It was the night before Christmas.

My mother and father were yelling,

I couldn’t sleep, so I tossed and turned.

I heard my door open and I closed my eyes.

She was crying and upset.

I heard my father’s truck start and spin the tires.

She left the room and I heard my door shut.

After I understood why my mom was crying

I hoped it was not true.

My father left us that first Christmas

Of my life

That is why Christmas is just another day.

The Christmas I’ll never forget.


Where I Come From

 Where I come from. 

Life was...well, life was something else, I tell you. 

I did not know what the hell was right

or what was wrong. 

There was fighting. 

My mom was always drunk. 

My first memories were of my own mother

being passed out. 

My dad would be out in the garage

building hot rods with his friends,

smoking pot. 

So honestly I don’t know where to say I am from. 

If I was to guess I’m probably from space. 

Outer space.


To Hell with You!

You are my demise.

You are why I’m in jail.

You are why I’m alone.

You are why my kids don’t speak.

You are why I weep.

You are why I want to kill.


You pretend you are my friend.

You pretend you are my lover.

You pretend that I matter.

You pretend I am boss.

You pretend things will be ok.

You pretend to pretend.


You understand I’m fragile.

You understand I’m lonely.

You understand I’m here.

You understand I understand.

Well guess what, understand this:

I am sober, I am alive.


I Will Never Forget that Christmas

I will never forget that Christmas

on the farm when I was 10 years old. 

That winter was brutal for our whole family. 

The tractor breaking down,

our highest producing cow contracting barn ware,

the water in the barn freezing up,

pipes cracking,


what a mess. 


My grandparents came up in a storm,

my grandmother helped my mom in the house. 

My grandfather came out to the barn

to help Dad and I thaw out water pipes. 

Then Dad worked on the milk pump

to get it going so we could get back to milking. 

The whole family banding together

to make Christmas happen.


What My Addiction Couldn’t Take Away

It couldn’t take away

the love, caring, kindness, and closeness

between my son Kyler and I. 

No matter what, I always put my son

in front of all that, even his mother. 

Kyler and I have a bond nothing can change,

not alcohol or drugs. 

With Dena giving up on drugs herself,

I feel as if her and I can win against this addiction we both have. 

Our addictions can’t take away our love for each other. 

It’s nice knowing I can be on the winning side of something

rather than my addiction having the upper hand.


What Scares Me the Most

What scares me the most

is that once I’m released in 3,4,5 years,

I won’t be able to stay within my regimen of staying clean and sober,

something I’ve had trouble doing many times in the past. 

Will it be easier? 

Will it be harder? 

Can I respond and attend an AA/NA meeting? 

Can I swallow pride and call my sponsor? 

Can I still count on my Higher Power? 

Can I rely on my wife, my family, my friends? 

Hopefully with all this said,

the answers will be yes. 

But the one I should always be able to count on is me! 

I say there is still hope!