Sunday, June 30, 2013

My Roommate

My roommate is a self-confessed OCD/phobic cleanliness fanatic. (I don't mind; it is better than the alternative!) But, now that she knows I lived in a tipi, she's convinced I have a secret penchant for bugs, snakes, and all manner of "creepy/crawlies" I don't disabuse her of this opinion. Perhaps she saw me cringe when she mentioned an exterminator aftring seeing seven tiny ant wandering around the cell floor. I thought it best not to tell her about my daughter and me, and how we would carefully and meticulously move the spiders and their babies before cleaning their lacey web curtains from our kitchen windows. Some things are better left unsaid!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Family Members and Dear Friends

I miss so many family members and dear friends--especially my beloved cousin, Gerry, and his little pal, Ruby Tuesday, the "Admiral." This multi-talented and highly intelligent little pooch thinks she's a St. Bernard! (Well, she certainly saved my mind from floundering in a snow drift!)

Naming Trees

My brother-in-law kindly id'd some Illinois trees for me. (Why does "naming" make something more comprehensible? As Robert Frost says, "Talk fahrenheit, talk centigrade! Use language we can comprehend; tell us what elements you blend!")
(Perhaps the name colors the image? Oh dear. Not another Masters thesis!) At any rate, my thanks to Mark for telling me that I was seeing: "Kentucky coffee legume locusts" and the lovely "Sycamore." (It does mean something in the end.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pooping In Prison

My granny always told mem that it was bad form to discuss bodily functions in public. She pointed out that saying one was "full" after a meal called up unpleasant images of digestion, implying that one's intestines were packed. She never went totally victorian by calling a table leg, a "limb" but she always preferred re-naming a chicken "thigh" as a "second joint" to avoid the more lubricious implication. 

This childhood training seems strange and out of place as I write from the Decatur prison for women in Decatur, Illinois.  Here, pooping is not only important, but also vital and, thus, fair game for any discussion. 

One fellow inmate told me that she didn't poop for the first two weeks of her incarceration. "I thought I was going to die," she states, her eyes wide with remembered terror. Another friend routinely interrupts a conversation to run away a couple of feet, the victim of painful flatulence, another result of the inability to poop.

I have not escaped this agony either-no matter how much cake, carbs, or any other food I trade for the meger prison veggies: canned carrots, canned green beans, and, occationally, the miraculous previously frozon broccoli. 

My pleas to the doctor were met with a dismissive hand wave and a shot of Mild of Magnesia. He actually had the gall to say that, if I avoided certain foods, my body would adjust to the prison diet. 

I begged for Metamucil. But I was denied. The doctor explained that, if they allowed me to have psyllium husks, everyone would want them. Then, what would they do?

With this stunning logic, I must admit I was both speechless and stymied. 

Not to fear, however. On the rare days, when I am allowed outside, I have discovered an old friend: the generous and boutiful dandelion. Anyone with any experience with herbs or poverty knows the power of this plant. 

The leaves are fresh, raw, and most preciously, dark green. Used in tea or mixed with other foods, the dandelion leaf can cure, soothe, and detox the body's digestive system. 

ANother helpful and plentiful aid is the purple or white clover flower. We can buy chamomile tea from the commissary and, mixed with the clover flowers, the drink also helps solve digestive problems. 

Some prisoners look at me with horror and disgust, they joke about me "grazing on the lawn." But I know that these are small green gifts are literally saving my ass. (And, of course I wash my food before I eat it. Besides, it's hardly more poisonous than the five leaves of iceberg lettuce on my dinner tray!)

When I was feeling funky as a child, my Grany's first question was always, "Suza, darling, have you had a B.M. today?" My answer in prison is, "Hell, yes, Granny, and, although you would never be in my position, your mother wit helps me along everyday."

Now if I could just get my hands on some chickweed.

June 16, 2013

7 days 'till the biggest full moon in years-hold on to your hearts! Thanks to you all for your support.
Love Suza "Your Friendly Felon."

June 16, 2013

The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible. -Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thank You Alison

Even though I can't see this blog with my own eyes, I send my heartfelt love and gratitude to my beloved sister, Alison, for creating it. Thanks so much, Al. You rock!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Doves --For Noreen


          I can't remember if these are "morning" doves, like
"doves at dawn," or if they're "mourning" doves--doves of grief.
With no computer or reference volume, I'm as dumb as a stump.
          Whatever they're called, the doves perch delicately on 
the razor wire and chain link that surround our small yard; this
wears a depressing cold war frown. The apartments leak vodka
and black market drugs looking strangely like the prison. Perhaps
both were built by the same pre-Reagan contractor.
          The doves are probably indifferent to political
 boundaries of fences, only concerned if they were to get caught
in a trigger-happy crossfire. For now, they seem as blase as tehy
whir and coo. The smaller one--a female I guess--plops down to 
stroll flirtatiously among the dead leaves, while the male sings
to her from the sharp wire.
         Since I don't know whether these doves are
"morning" or "mourning," I get to choose my terms. I go for
the sadder homonym, especially since I don't have any ravens
around to distract me.
        I lean against a leafless tree, my back to my fellow
prisoners. I can't see the other women this way, but I 
can feel them. They want to speak with me, but they 
sense the privacy of my "mourning dove" moment, and they leave
me alone. This unspoken courtesy, part of prison etiquette,
is a "given" here. So, I take my alloted space and sigh with
the doves, a gentle whipping cadence, the falling notes as graceful as grief.
          I notices that they don't seem to be 
doing anything. They're not even looking for food; they
just stare at each other and sing. What are they waiting for?
I wonder. Then, I realize that they may not be waiting, perhaps
this suspension of action is not waiting at all; perhaps
they are simply being.
         I watch the pale light color the scene lavender.
A mother-of-pearl luminescence radiates from the sun's veil.
Under my fingertips, the quiet tree bark is only slightly rough.
The air is warm, and I smell the first bond-breaking scents
of new roots stretching their sleepy arms, easing up from
the thawing earth.
         My cheeks are wet--not from shame or sadness--
but from a liquid union with this exquisite delicacy,
a suspiration filled with ineffable contradictions--the
the fragility of the doves stitched by the danger of the razor wire.
         I have no questions; I merely wait self-consciously.
Then I consider that, perhaps, like the doves, I am not waiting 
at all.
         From behind me, I hear the light step of a woman
approaching. My prescribed moment for reflection is over.
          I smell rain.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Day 20 In The X House

Suza Lambert Bowser
Dwight Maximum Security Prison
February 18, 2013

Post prandial, we walk from the dining hall in two lines
wearing the deep yellow and royal maroon of Tibetan monks.
Razor wire slices crystalline blue into ice splinters of light,
and the prison grass glitters flawed diamonds.
The sun is winter weak, but the wind is strong enough to prick my skin.

I pivot on this compass point--awry--then, aligned
beneath a lopsided moon. Beyond the fence,
a gas station pulses red, white, and blue blinking
with an offhanded, unobtainable liberty:
        Eighteen wheelers, SUV's, prison guards, coffee,
        tobacco, cornucopeias of candy, sour weiners, beer farmers,
        factory workers, toothless midwesterners...and the beast goes on.

For one brief chilly moment, my vision is a spherical and clear
as the shimmering chain link that contains me.
I don't want to be be in this prison, but  I don't want to be
in that convenience mart either.

An unseen train plays jazz--spotless and concise...
the C major 7th cleaves the air and reorganizes my brain.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lift Me Like a Leaf (After Shelley)

Suza Lambert Bowser
Decatur Prison - March 2013
While standing in line, I spot a red cardinal
now dead and nesting in a litter of leaves.
My neck cranes brokenly, struggling to see beyond the prison glass.

Here inside, I can't hear the paper scrape,
the whisk and hush of dessicated leaves. So,
like the audio overdubs I've recorded, 
I cover this video with remembered sounds from outside.

"Look!" One prisoner exclaims, "A hummingbird!"
The other women sigh a cute and tragic "Awwwww."

These girls don't know shit about birds, I gloat, 
noting the red feathers melting soggy against the skeleton.
But, then I see it:
        A tiny shadow on the concrete ledge,
        a smudge, a fluttered shape,
        the needle-thing tubular beak.
It's a hummingbird all right and by God.

Silent swirls of dead leaves grace this humbug delicacy.
Like the cardinal, I'm the redfaced oaf fallen beside a fairy