riding the crest of a moment of power

I crash facefirst into the trough

choking on salt-water spray


I scrabble upon the shore


scraped upon the grit

resurgent in pounding grief

tonight will not be the night

I control the storm

pulse lightening from my fingertips

I survey the shipwreck

knowing I was

not the captain

tonight survival is power




disguise themselves masterfully

competing for honors at Carnival

cherubic and beaming

they devise diabolical inducements

haloed incubi

ferret out hapless innocents

roasting over flames

display for her

their spit-turned agony

heart bursting

she inevitably

scrapes and gnaws away bindings

bloodied in the clawing

only to discover

scorched limbs

-possessed by parallel demons-

refuse release


she covers their charred skins


curling herself around

melting flesh

having not yet

met her own demise

but carrying scars

in incinerated futures

this time

she catches a whiff

of smoked hopes

amongst fiendish enticements

does not abandon

smoldering victims

of their own monsters

slashes at ties

cajoles unprising

from frozen captive

when inferno rages


martyr remains


she lets go

blisters rise

over heart and dermis

looks her demons

in their glowing eyes








Sing, Nightingale

my tongue remains

whole, intact

yet strangely tied

on subjects

of my subjugation

a likely consequence

of messages

spoken and


on the importance of


no boat rocking



deference to authority

using my manners

being considerate

toward others

being, in general

a good Catholic girl

I am done

biting my tongue

to protect you

from discomfort

at hearing

the reality of

my experience


no more


Ms. Nice Gal

Salvage in Process

limbs leaden

she clamps ravaged

remnants of her cloak

around her

trembling frame


with vestiges

of disorienting


claret dregs

ooze mortification

now crusted over


a lattice upon

her very


on unsteady limbs

she forages


under the shadow

of blotted stars



amongst the crumbled


she will salvage







there are some who say

she is a weed

having strayed

beyond establishment bounds

creeping in

riotous colors

amongst neat boxwoods

pruned severely

eliminating individuality

her pungent scent

draws bees

who buzzzzzzz veracity

she allows


of her pistil

with rampant


her off color


feistily infiltrate

carefully cultivated


her tenacious fibers


hothouse refinery


Piper, if I May Have a Word?


before prison

I watched your show

binge watched even

who didn’t?

in the furor

was common ground

among disparate selves

racy and fast paced

it engendered empathy

for a diverse gang

national phenomenon

it captivated us all


black is a little black dress

versatile, all purpose or sexy

what does orange

have to do with that?

then there was real prison

I wore orange

for a year

jumpsuit ill suited

for feminine curves

or a sense of humanity

I didn’t meet hot women

(no one is hot in orange sack cloth

and ashes of abject humiliation)

or have dance parties

or great sex (or any sex)

my skin withered

from lack of affection


black is trendy and chic

slimming, for daywear and night

true, we wore orange 24/7

and I did lose weight


Did you really wear orange at all?

Feds wear khaki scrubs

those are haute couture

compared to orange


burnt smelling jumpsuits

everyone wants to wear black

it’s sexy in a bra

all business in a pencil skirt

orange is stigma in shapeless coveralls

no one bargain hunts those


in real prison

I was always scared

I cried (a lot)

I was so alone

I was miserable

I felt guilty if

I accidentally laughed

you referenced the misery

almost in an aside

unnecessary eyeliner on a model

it was the carb-laden

diet of my existence


I thought about you

and your story

in harsh reality

and how we might

have common ground

middle class professionals


so I read your book

searching for understanding

validation of experience

my search for affirmation

abandoned me

in a bittersweet desert

destined to find myself


I felt your empathy

desire not to judge

your compatriots

I appreciated that

I was impressed

by those sentiments

I scavenged what I could

well-schooled in prison survival

take what serves me

pretend I don’t see the rest

the disconnect arose

in the fun

you described

how you ran and shouted

like those women

I couldn’t stand

who acted like prison

was a street gang


who relished

the release from responsibility

that incarceration wrought

celebration of orange

is the color of abandonment

dereliction of duty

abdication of obligation


I longed for

my responsibilities

I fought the urge to

Bitch-slap women

who said jail

was a vacation

but then I would

have been sinking

to the level expected

of a felon

black could be the darkness

hidden inside us all

that we secret

even from ourselves



in my despair

I thought your survival

could light a torch

in the darkness

orange is not

the color of my torch

in black I hide

from demons and demonizing

 orange is neon shouting

my greatest private shame


I keep trying to understand

the title to your story

so many women

go to prison

were you capturing

the ubiquity

of our captivity?


I know you are a warrior

speaking out against the system

I just don’t understand

how you colored

your experience


I must have gone

to prison

with a different

set of crayons


Internal Debate, Heated


in this culture of never enough

my thoughts get squashed

on thumping superhighways

clumped and bloody, crossing lanes

never good enough

thinks she’s too good for prison

we’ll all pay for this for the rest of our lives

too smart for her own good

it’s all your own fault


maggots feeding on road kill

worm and squirm cortically

insinuate my trauma isn’t

absent fractures or abscesses

arrested at gunpoint

officer shouting orders

terrified to unbuckle

 that gun in my face

wasn’t that trauma?

my mental committee

are buzzards circling, relentless

overshadowing a survival

unworthy of the name

my everything ended

I got up every day, in prison and out

I smile on purpose, repeatedly

I remember how to laugh, spontaneously

isn’t that surviving?


I find a message, mine,

insistent and daring

quixotically poetic

a wake of vultures feeds

on judgement’s carnage

poems unmetered or ill-rhymed

lacking classical references

off-center, gutsy or ill-timed

shout intrinsic authenticity

isn’t that my voice?


(image: Warren Criswell)

Bearable Lightness

I have been weighted down

under burdens

stooping my posture

self- shouldered

or world-imposed

the leadenness

has dulled my spirits

blunted the sparkle

in my eyes

cramped the scintillation

of my wit


the twinkle in your eyes

sprinkles stardust

beneath my feet

your smile

crinkle-eyed and intimate

envelopes me

excludes the impinging world

your wink reminds me

that living

involves laughing

and life

though deadly

must not always

be serious


we run

barefoot and tipsy

skirting the scuttling

hermit crabs

dodging moonbeams

flirting cirrusly

fomenting joy

into the spray

balmy and foaming

of the welcoming sea


fingertip fused

we dance disinhibited

I twirl delirious

under our canopied arms

spinning, five

and carefree again

as the stars

revolve around

this moment


we collapse


in the membranes

of the shadows

absolved and salty

in the curative embrace

of each other

the night

and the surf