About Aurora Phoenix

This blog was begun a year and half ago by my mother, who put her fingers where her mouth was in terms of giving me a sense of purpose in my time of desperation. All of the postings are my work, written on the backs of envelopes in my extreme frugality “inside,” lovingly and dedicatedly transcribed by my mother. The thoughts, the emotions, the words, are mine. The creative idea of an outlet for that voice, and the persistence in making it happen were hers. She went above and beyond the call of duty, as mother are wont to do.

A year ago, I came home.

If home is a halfway house more terrifying than prison, where for over a month I was the only woman housed with (quite literally) gang bangers, a few of whom were reformed or reforming; the majority of whom continued on their nefarious careers with the full (faux blind eyed) knowledge of halfway house staff.  I heard gunshots outside at all hours, listened to stories shared over blunts smoked in the yard, and used my mom voice to stand my ground, all while wondering what surreal universe I had fallen into.

If home is a guest suite in a nunnery, because federal inmates cannot go home without some to “take responsibility” for us, and my retired nun aunt was the only local person willing to do so for my felonious self.  The nuns were a warm and welcoming group, asking no questions of my sins, and yet most definitely not home.

If home is a basement apartment the likes of which I have not lived in since college days, insufficient for welcoming my children and providing that home I have always provided for them.

If home is a state of perpetual judgment visited upon me, more harshly in many moments by “friends” than strangers.

If home is lonely and sad and confusing, a continual struggle to focus on positive forward motion.

If home is the opportunity to become the poster child for the local re-entry program, as they can credit themselves with my poise, articulation and professional demeanor, while they keep me from recidivating; and I hold my tongue from screaming that I will succeed in SPITE of the system, not because of it.

Throughout this journey, I have had 3 steadfast pillars that have kept me from curling permanently into a fetal ball or literally pulling out my hair: 1) A core of supporters, mother and father at the helm of that sturdy ship; 2) the constancy of nature- in whatever limited snippets available, a constant source of hope and beauty; and 3) writing as a safe and therapeutic outlet.

The journey is far from over. I am continuing to re-create some semblance of home, a career and a future. Meanwhile, I endeavor to be dawn rising from the ashes of my funeral pyre.

I continue to write as Aurora Phoenix.

(below written 8/15)

I write as Aurora Phoenix.

Nine months ago my world shattered. Unexpectedly and dramatically arrested, I have been incarcerated ever since, as I await the unbearably slow machinations of the system.

As a clinical psychologist who has worked with a wide variety of disempowered individuals, I would not have described myself as naïve regarding the pervasive inhumanity of the criminal justice system. A moderate anecdotal and academic understanding, however, was insufficient preparation for life “inside.” Bereft of daily contact with beloved children, family and friends, powerless over all but a painfully limited few aspects of my existence, and immersed in a culture at once dehumanizing, disorienting and bewildering, it has been an exhausting struggle. In many moments, it has been my experience that I am fighting to save my very soul.

I have spent the majority of my time in a jail that I am confident is better than most. I seldom fear for my physical safety and there are no vermin scuttling under my bunk. I am blessed with strong and devoted support systems that have actively demonstrated their love and concern. I have access to books and opportunity for physical exercise, both of which have helped immeasurable in efforts to sustain myself. Bird outside my window have served as winged emissaries of hope, reminders that there is still beauty and joy in the world “outside.

Nevertheless, there have been dark and desolate moments. The confluence of emotional isolation and absolute lack of privacy has been oppressively daunting. Devoid of verbal communication that is unmonitored, pen and paper have served as my truest outlet for grief, fear and angst. I am daily faced with the dual reality of a systemically dehumanizing present and a terrifyingly uncertain future. Armed with toilet paper for intermittently copious tears, my motions experience and reflections are PaperMate poured. In this chapter of my life, I write.


39 thoughts on “About Aurora Phoenix

  1. Can you, AP’s family, find me on Facebook? I know AP can tell you exactly who I am and you can find me and message me (no need to ‘friend’ one another). I just have a question about how to get in touch with her via mail! If not, I understand. I think I have it figured out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Aurora Phoenix, I am very sorry to hear of your situation and hope that is possible to change and improve soon. If you are blogging then I would seriously encourage you to start writing poetry. Poetry is an excellent way to deal with your feelings. Please see if there is anyway you can get ahold of the book “Poemcrazy” and “The Psycology of Romantic Love”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is utterly heart wrenching. And I am so glad you are writing! (I honestly don’t know what else to say, as I feel my words could trivialise what you have been through, what you are going through.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It was difficult to “like” this post – we need a different button! I greatly admire your honesty and your courage (as well as your talent as a poet) – willing to put a human face on the problems with the justice and mental health systems, and the shameful incarceration process that flies in the face of everything we know about human needs.

    Thank you for “liking” a recent post on ADDandSoMuchMORE.com, which led me here. I’ll be praying that you will shortly find yourself truly HOME at last, with a life that is healed through your own resolve. God Bless your mother for realizing that you needed a place to raise your voice.

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”


  5. God bless your honesty. I was fortunate that my judge felt there would be no benefit to jail time at my age. I am starting my third year of a 5 year supervised probation sentence. The humiliation of the label “convicted felon” is a horrible thing to deal with. Writing keeps me sane.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think that WordPress is a very welcoming and accepting community and so the likelihood of anyone being snotty and disrespectful is very low. I think it could possibly be very empowering and freeing for you to do so. Or of course it could also dredge up uncomfortable feelings but isn’t that part of what we do with our poetry anyway?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes it is. I’ve been struggling with this for over a year now. It is all a big part of the last 4 1/2 years of my life and why I turned to writing. The guilt I carry is overwhelming at times, so perhaps it’s finally time. Thank you so much for your advice and support. ☺

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello, love. I was incarcerated in 2002 in MS for 5.5 years and had to transition to a halfway house for a while myself. Now, 16 years later, much to everyone’s (including my own) I am again facing criminal charges.
    This time I am on bond and in the most odd of limbo worlds; not completely bound, yet not quite free. I wish you all the best in your struggles and your successes. If you ever want more pen pals, my kids and husband are always more than willing to facilitate communication between institutions. If not, still know our thoughts are with you always. May your experience continue to forge you into something all the more beautiful and never turn to ash.

    Liked by 1 person

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