Pieces From the SPA Reading


On March 9th, members of our Montpelier and Middlebury groups shared their writing at Studio Place Arts in Barre.

Please explore these pieces below.

Many thanks to Sue Higby and SPA for hosting this event.

by Maura Quinn
How it all started
In the beginning there was the word
And the word was alcoholism
This word was so powerful
I didn’t want to go anywhere near it
Of course alcoholism was an
I saw a movie with Nick Nolte
And I’m pretty sure it was called
Affliction of Afflicted
Nick Nolte the one-time hunk
Later of the frumpy frazzled mug-shot
Fame or infamy
I liked Nick Nolte
Still do
I think he understands
What it is to be drawn so powerfully
As to make you powerless
Like swimming in Niagara Falls
Not going to happen
But I did feel like I was drowning
Not so much physically
Because despite the fact
I used to gulp my drinks
I could take a break
In between the first four shots
The first four shots that came in rapid fire succession
Before making myself a double to take to the couch
I kind of forgot where this began
Which is very much like
Every night when I was drinking
Oh but yeah here is how it all started
I drank too much
Too long
I stopped

Here’s How to Know When You Have a Problem
by Maura Quinn
Here’s how to know when you have a problem
Well, I thought I knew how you know but I can only share my experience
But ok
Here is how I knew and how you may now the experience
It keeps bobbing up
Like a buoy in the water
Only the bobber or buoy
Is in your head
Kind of like a smell that lingers
Or a noise you actively try not to notice
But you notice
Alcohol keeps bobbing up
The idea of it the need for it
And there is never enough
Even at the beginning
When the bottle is full
It still isn’t enough
Because you start to notice it disappearing
You try to imagine
Someone else is hogging it
So you start doing shots
And pouring stronger and stronger drinks
Till it is gone
But whatever
We need more
Just a beer
Even a beer
You’re going nuts
And you know it.
So that is how you know you have a problem
Oh and maybe your hands are shaking like mine did
Oh and anxiety and rage
But you not a violent person so it smashes around inside of your head till you think you might
So you know if you are awake you need more
And of course there is

The Text I Never Sent
by Maura Quinn
The text I never sent
The car I didn’t rent
The seat I didn’t save
Cremation or grave
Funny I think of that now
How did she do it?
I don’t think I want to know
Knowing that she isn’t breathing anymore
Is too much already
We didn’t send text then
We stopped making calls
Now I read your words
On a page you published
At first I smile
I hold your words
In my hands
Years ago
You held me in your arms
I am angry
I am sad
I was angry then
I was sad
Most of all I wish
No I don’t wish
Wishing goes nowhere
Which is where you are now
Before last week
You were somewhere
But now I know
You are gone
Turn back time
Great song
But ah
Too much
I’ll pull myself apart.

What Keeps Her Awake at Night
by Dawn
Tick, tick , tick....
the second hand on the old kitchen clock.....
tick, tick, tick
Where is he tonight?
It’s late,
tick, tick, tick....
the seconds continue
Funny how that sound goes unnoticed
until all you want to hear
is the sound of tires in the driveway....
Tick, tick, tick...
it’s now the next day,
after midnight,
is he alright?
Where is his phone??
He’s not returning texts or calls... 
Over time this mother has learned
not to leave too many messages as it fills the mailbox... 
Playing scenarios out in her head...
praying to hear the tires...
Eventually the prayed for sound is heard
and a sense of relief floods her body. 

When No One is Looking
by Dawn
When no one is looking
it is easy to dream and reflect,
to change the endings
to horrible events from the past.
To make the endings happy,
to end something just in time,
to have an ending that’s a mystery.... 
It’s easier to look in the mirror,
smile back at the reflection
and like yourself. 

Here’s Why I’m Not Giving Up
by Dawn
I’m not giving up
because I love you more
than words on paper can express.
I know that recovery is possible,
miracles happen every day!
You may crawl up the steps
to a meeting
and then lead someone up those stairs
at another time.
I can accept I can’t change you
or force you to change
but I can have hope.
My hope is you will make it
up those stairs to a better way of life. 

I Am From
by Lee Larson
I am from Frank and Muriel, a clever engineer and a hard working nurse.
I am from 1950's small town Holliston where I could ride my bike down back country roads
with no fear of strangers.

I am from camping in the Hulbert pastures, my friend Jo Jo and I, choosing a different tent each night to pitch at a new site on her family's farm while my dog, Lulu kept the bovines at bay, the sheep huddling on the other side of the fence.

I am from the great heights of the multiple arched stone train trestle, where one day while playing in the stream below with my friends, the Chartrand boys rained rocks on us from above. De De Pisapia caught a stone on her head, blood promptly and profusely running down her scalp and clothes as we hurried to my house. My efficient Nurse Mother Muriel put De-De to right, patching her head and cleaning her up. Mom's efforts were not enough however, to keep Mrs. Pisapia from fainting dead away when De-De and I walked through her door. Those Chartrand boys got off scott free.

I am from Dixieland Jazz playing in the night while my parents and neighbors danced on the cement terrace next to the old cemetery, lit by a string of colored Japanese lanterns, a flickering fire and a full moon. I watched, un-noticed from my perch in the apple tree, thrilling to the rising notes of a trumpet and worrying if Louis Armstrong would die from his recent heart attack. Such things happen. He didn't die just then and I finally got to see him in concert at the Bushnell in Hartford in 1968.

I am from that cement terrace which was formerly the floor of a chicken coop, my parents' great find as they set to clean up the yard of their first real home. My dad built a fireplace out of rescued bricks and we grilled steak, burgers, corn and marshmallows there on most summer evenings. I would creep quietly from my bed at sunrise, stealing up to the terrace for the charred, cold corn on the cob gracing the grate of the fireplace chimney. Often I would find that Honest Oz Holmberg, Pop's best friend and our neighbor across the field, had beat me to it. He always saved me an ear as this was our special time to talk of the critters and birds of Massachusetts. He was a trapper and ornithologist.

I am from a hole in the garage roof as I stood on a big wooden crate, waist, chest, shoulders, arms and head poking out over the lower courses of a new roof, hammer in hand. My dad would set a roofing shingle over the fresh tar paper and I would pound down the new nails he lightly set in place for me.

Mother Muriel, hollering up from ground level, “Frank, Are you crazy? What are you doing?” He was teaching me to be confident and self-sufficient, no-doubt.

by Lee Larson
A 4' 5000K shop light. I will have to settle for
a case of 4000K lights at $4.99 each.
I guess this means that I am looking for the light.
A good light to light my way.
A way to see clearly.

Everything that I love to do seems to require good light.
Especially the notion of being enlightened.
Of understanding why things happen the way they do.

I started to get enlightened in Recovery.
I stepped out and away from my depression, from my desire to end it all as a way of stopping the
My friends in Recovery seemed to each have a torch to help me see what they see, what they
have found that helps them.

The more enlightened I became, the more I felt like embracing creativity:
Embracing a way to express myself, to make a statement of WHO I AM, WHAT I LOVE;
A way of being a better person in my relationships:
Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Recovery has given me steps, a path to follow and ears that seek to listen. I no longer need to try
to be deaf to what is happening around me.
I've seen the light that helps me surround myself with people seeking Recovery and have been
able to step back from those who would manipulate me.

A good, long 5000K bulb would help!

Hit Ignore
by Daniel Wyman
To family:
I hope you all know, I don't discriminate.
My consistent unresponsiveness is not directed
towards you or him or her.
You can wish me well and send your love,
and if you're lucky, you might get a "you too,"
but most likely you'll find days of silence
followed by some bullshit out of a remembrance card,
or even more likely, nothing at all.
My hope is you'll forget
and that someday you'll just stop.
That someday I'll have left your mind
so you can better place your love.

When You Know You Have a Problem
by Daniel Wyman
When you stop seeing daylight,
you might figure something's up.
When the lack of space left in your dog's bladder
is the only thing getting you out of bed,
that's just unkind.
And when you can't wait to go back to sleep after having done so for over 16 hours,
that's no longer living.
Avoiding hugs or kisses from the one you love
may be an early warning sign.
Your heart skipping a beat each time she opens a cabinet
because you don't remember where you hid the bottle
turns your home into a minefield.
Staying up just so she'll go to sleep,
so you can hug and kiss your vice,
only to wake up in a panic- terrified of what you've done.
Every Morning. That's a hint
When you look back and see that
you're not the protagonist,
but the bad guy in your own story;
when your own self-centeredness can't save you,
you might have a problem.

Relapse #1
By Daniel Wyman
I expected to feel shame and embarrassment
I told myself "tomorrow, you can have only one of two conversations"
I thought I'd regret missing out on that chip
I knew how disappointed my parents would be
I wasn't looking forward to that headache
I was setting the clock back
I was lonely
I was sad
I was angry.
I was buoyant
I was social
I was a butterfly
I was becoming who I wanted to be
I wasn't second guessing myself
I knew exactly what was right for me.
I thought I was a fool for ever denying myself
I told myself "you can do anything".
I expected to feel the same way tomorrow.

Here’s How to Know How You Have a Problem
by Diane
If you are in college and still haven’t declared a major after your first year because you scheduled all of your classes around soap operas. You’ve got a problem. 

If you think you are a ballerina and dance to “Send in the Clowns,” by yourself, at the wedding reception of your boyfriend’s family. You’ve got a problem. 

If you pack your bag like you are going to Betty Ford’s but really end up in the county detox wearing paper shoes. You’ve got a problem. 

But if you see them, own them, and change them, then it’s no longer a problem. It’s now called growth.

I Found the Photograph Under the Seat of the Car
by Diane
I bought a new beater. It’s fifteen years old.

It needs work where the rest has eaten its armor away. 

My husband says “a little Bondo a little paint, we can make it what it ain’t.”

That’s the easy part

But inside, under the passenger seat I found a photograph of a woman.

She was standing proud, grinning in front of the car.

She looked happy and appeared to be someone that was on a mission or adventure.

She broke that car in,

She kicked ass with it.

She cried in it and laughed in it. She drove it like there was no tomorrow.

And now it’s mine,

I hope I can live up to her standards.

When No One Was Looking
by Diane
When no one was looking,
I knelt and prayed to a God that I did not trust.
When no one was looking, 
I peeked in my closet in my closet to see if Dracula was living there.
When no one was looking I pressed flowers into a bible I did not believe in. 
When no one was looking I beat myself so hard that I fell or the floor,
Filled with rage and despair that no one saw. 
When no one was looking, I was silently and gently lifted from my hopelessness
By a Power that has many names. 

I Am From
by Ann Wade
I am from
A world of mixed messages
I love you
Go away

I am from parents who were phonies
Everyone thought they loved each other deeply

I am from a deep gene pool of hard workers, sadness and pain
I am a product of my environment

I am just another white girl from the suburbs
From the 1 st planned model community
Park Forest, Il
Where everybody drank and smoked and said things that they didn’t mean

I am lucky to be alive
Driving drunk on back roads
In cornfields of Will county

I am now from the hills of Vermont
I made a big circle back to where I lived as a baby
And just starting to grow into the person
I was supposed to be
All along

Here’s How It All Started
by Ann Wade
Here’s how it all started
A woman at the pool gave me a phone number
I think she was tired of listening to me
“Call her “she told me
“She’s a life coach, and a really good one”

Then I had to answer pages of painful questions before she would see me
A friend let me stay in her house in Rockland for a long weekend
And that’s where the purge began

Flopping around the streets of Rockland Maine
Like an injured bird
With a broken wing
People were nice to me there
They didn’t seem to judge
More accepting than home
That’s how it all started
I wanted to get better
I wanted to change
I felt it after our very 1st session together
She told me that she could see me flying
And I am!

I thank Jenn and Adelaide to this day
But they refuse to take any credit
They say I did it myself
But I know that’s not the truth
I’ve had so much help along the way
My Higher power dropping me
Bread crumbs my whole life
Letting me hop along until I was ready to fly

My broken wing is still under construction
But the cast is off
I need to preen my feathers

What Matters Most
by Ann Wade
What matters most
Is that I’m here
Safe, sound and warm
So grateful for being in sound mind and body
My heart aches for people suffering with mental illness

The town has been whispering about a young woman who took her own life
I passed by the parked truck off Rt. 110 many times, and found it curious
More details, more questions
More, more, and then I think
There was a time not that long ago
When I too contemplated taking my own life
In order to relieve myself from the anguish of being a caretaker
and losing myself to alcohol, depression
and self-loathing.
What matters most now is
I have a new lease on life
I’m sober, happy and free
winning through surrender.

What matters most is
That I surround myself with a bubble of white light
To protect me from negativity and evil
Keep my eye on the prize
And move in a positive direction

This minute what matters most is that
I breathe

I Could Only Wait So Long
by Donna Moran
I could only wait so long. And I did not wake this morning with the notion that today would be
the day.

The pressure of making a mistake. The shame, far outweighed the pressure of doing nothing. Doing nothing was very costly. You are a victim, caught in the continuous unsteady cross fire, of yes, no, maybe!!  Ripped to shreds with your uncertainty. Left, with nothing but a saving grace.

I did not have to make a decision. My options ran out, and landed me in an exit off I-70, New Castle Indiana.

(I left the car to go to the restroom, walked out the back door of the rest-stop and ran into the cornfields. I just kept running. And no one came looking.)

I am walking through a freshly tilled corn field; damp, cool, reflecting the early morning sun, rows and rows, miles and miles.

I knelt and touched the blackened gold. I smelled it, and I touched it with my tongue. It was real.
It was real. And it was the first, real thing I had felt in three years.

So taken was I with the moment, I laid upon the bed of heaven. In the middle of the field, somewhere in Indiana. My lungs burst. FREEDOM! Freedom, with two dollars in my pocket, and my freedom. How rich am I. I am FREE!

Here Is Why It Is So Hard to Forgive
by Donna Moran
Innocence, once stolen, never, EVER can be returned to the child. The child may run for your arms, but the innocence has left. The mind has been altered. The mind, the body and the soul. The child, will occupy the balcony of the mind to all she will ever meet. All, who will never know the spiral staircase of going down. The endless volcanic eruption of more to stop the coming down.

Yet, speak to the child, and you will be unaware of the split. Her eyes will search yours for the truth. Truth means nothing, to a robbed child. There is no understanding why. Why, they do not even ask why. Remote control. The innocent child, no longer innocent. Not by design but the execution of a plan by, the predator. The predator, is not discreet: dad, grampa, nana, teacher. The sentence, of life in prison, is that of the child not the predator. And yet, one must forgive. One, must forgive those that took the life of innocence. YES. One, cannot let them take your garden. The weeds, once planted, forever will rob you, of your freedom. You, will become a slave. A wanderer, until you find an EXIT, maybe in Indiana

Go, lay in a field of freshly tilled soil, under a June Bride sky. Cry, and leave the poison, the hate, the shame. Plant your seeds of

Take FREEDOM.....Live

Sometimes It All Becomes Too Much
by Mollie Hoerres
You know it’s too much when
The band around your head
Presses in
You’re sure your brain will explode
And leak out of your ears
Popping the top of your skull
High into the air
This is when it seems
It has all become too much
Life pressing in on you
People talking at you
Everything moving fast
You can’t keep up the pace
The pace
Their pace
I couldn’t keep up
It had become too much
My head did explode
At least in the figurative sense
Too much racing
Too much running
Pretending, lying, hiding
Too much, much too much
The irony of it all is that
Once it all becomes too much
You can let go
You can ask for help
You can slow down
Stop racing
Stop running
Stop pretending, lying, hiding
Just stop
You can begin to breathe
Be carried by unknown hands
Trusting that
Though it sometimes is too much
It will change
You won’t actually explode or implode
If you can stop
Just for a second
And breathe

The Text I Never Sent
by Mollie Hoerres
I never sent the text
Couldn’t have sent the text
Texting didn’t exist
It would have been easier
To type in a few characters
String along a few words
Words that maybe
someone would understand

Click “send”
Away my words would go
What exactly
Would I have said?
Help me?
I’m lost, please find me?
Maybe I would have sent
An “I love you”
Or simply
Thank you
Words that, at the time
Were difficult to
Fall from my lips
Words that weren’t even able
to travel along synapses
Into my consciousness

You could say it was because
I was high back then
But, no
It wasn’t being high
That just made it easier to forget
And pretend
There was no “send button”
No way for me to speak
Or even feel

Early in my life
“Mute” was pressed
On an internal remote
Changing batteries
Didn’t solve the problem
Didn’t solve the problem
The mute button
Perpetually stuck
Regularly being pressed by those
Who hoped I wouldn’t hit “send”
Who hoped I wouldn’t find my words

I’m here to say
I am getting a new remote
And a phone that texts
Watch out

When This Winter Is Finally Over
by Mollie Hoerres
When this winter is finally over
I will put my hands into thawed earth
Feel the sun upon my back
I will dig
I will dig
Turning the soil
Smelling heaven on earth
Like life has been breathed back
Into my wintered body

When this winter is finally over

I will plant
Seed by seed
Carefully, tenderly
Placing them into their tiny holes
Where the sun will nurture them
Where the rain will hydrate them
Where the soil will nourish new growth to come

When this winter is finally over

I will bask in the earth’s glow
Relishing the warmth from the wind
As it gently blows through opened windows
That are tired from hanging
So tightly shut
The sweet smell of spring
Filling the kitchen as if
Fresh bread were in the oven

When this winter is finally over

I will watch my garden
Tend my weeds
Even if
Not perfectly.

Here Is Exactly How It Happened
by Kate
I called my aunt Roselyn in Arizona and asked if she had a number for my father. After not being able to talk to him for the past ten years. She told me she did not have a number but the last she knew he was in Georgia avoiding the police. She did have a number to a relative he was staying with in Georgia who I could call. So I tried that number and found it to be another almost dead end. My distant cousin told me that my father was arrested and brought back to Vermont. She said to try calling the jails here to try and contact him.So I did. One place said yes he was there but he had been transferred 6 months ago and now he was in the Windor County Work Prison. So I called there and they confirmed my father who I had been longing for since age eleven was at last found. I thanked the women and asked how to get in contact with him. I wrote him a letter in hopes he wanted to hear from me and that I would get a response. A few weeks later I got that return letter...

What the Ghost Said When She Whispered in My Ear
by Kate
I had recently moved into this 1800’s farmhouse that had been abandoned for the last seventeen
years. The dust was an inch thick. The furniture was all old antiques covered in cloth.  I thought this place is going to be beautiful it just needs some good elbow grease and a few upgrades.

I gathered a crew of friends and family. We started cleaning, painting and sanding the old pine

Soon it was move in ready. I'll never forget what one of my aunts who had helped me with the cleaning said. “Katie Girl how are you ever going to live in this big old house alone?” “Aren't
you scared it’s haunted?”

I turned to her and said what the ghost had said when she whispered in my ear last night.

“Thanks for bringing life back into these old rooms”

Here’s Why I'm Not Giving Up
by Kate
I’m twenty-nine years old
and have given thirteen of those twenty-nine years
to Drugs and Alcohol.
July 6th, 2016 I was given another chance
at this crazy thing we call life.
All the cards were stacked against me
three days in a coma from an overdose.
Doctors told my family and friends
I most likely wouldn't wake up…
Just like those EMTs who kept bagging air into my lungs.
Just like those EMTs that gave me chest compressions
the whole way to the hospital
until my heart started again.
Just like them…
I'm not giving up...
Every day I wake up sober
I’m thankful I still haven't given up…

To Be Completely Honest...
by Lucie Hobbs-Johnson
I feel damn good in recovery. I mean I feel rrrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaaaaalllllllllll good in recovery. I reckon this that pank cloud I heard the elders talkin' 'bout in them meetings where everyone says they don't have another recovery in 'em, and that God be tha glory! Can't say I've ever wanted this damn sober livin' so bad in the past, but with my wife expectin' and all, figure it's now or neva. Can't remember the last time I kept $20 in ma pocket so long. Yup, this recovery is fittin' me just fine and I thank I'll stick 'round.

Gary MillerComment