What It Is Like To Live In A Community: Frog Gravy 46

Posted: October 23, 2011 in Artwork, Video unrelated
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Behind The Scenes: The Frog Gravy Notes

Behind the scenes, the Frog Gravy notes. When I say that Frog Gravy is reconstructed from my notes, you may wonder what the notes look like. Here are some of them.

And, in the Spirit of Halloween:

Ghost and bats. Prison art

Ghost and bats. Felt tip pen. By Crane-Station on flickr. Prison art.

A while back, I blogged What It Is Like To Live In A Community on Firedoglake/MyFDL. I actually wrote it while I was in prison, but I had no idea where the essay was until today, when I came across it in my notes.

Being in prison is a lot like being a passenger on a train. The community members are transient and so, although you live in one location, you never feel quite grounded as though you are at home. Although I became very close with Christie (who I named after Christie Brinkley) and Tina (who I named after actor Tina Louise), other inmates passed through my strange prison life like ghosts. Just when I would get to know intimate details of someone’s life, she was gone.

I have always been fascinated with groups. Anything more than two people, I think, is enough to formulate a group. I find group dynamics most interesting. In women’s prison, the group is a group of people in nearly constant crisis. Inmates have been separated abruptly from everything that once defined them, and they become a faceless number. A criminal outcast, whose life is forever divided into two parts: the before and the after. This division is sometimes compounded when a family member, a child in particular, dies on the outside. I saw this happen, more than once.

Incarceration is akin to being psychologically raped. I have always been a loner for the most part, and being forced to live with women was like being forced to befriend a group of feral cats. Still, I had hope that the members of the group could recognize their commonality rather than their differences, and work together toward a common goal of redefining the second half of their lives to incorporate the prison experience in a positive, rather than a negative way.

The key, I think, is in forgiveness, and in letting go of resentments. For me, this is a work in progress, or, as they say in the recovery program, “progress not perfection.”

What It Is Like To Live In A Community

A community is like a boat. Everyone must grab an oar and row. Otherwise, the boat just sits in the water.

Some people have oars, but their oars are not quite in the water, so it is really good to help them, to find their oar and get it into the water.

Sometimes half of the people are working really hard, and rowing forward, while the other half is working really hard to row backward, or sideways. In this case, the boat does not go anywhere; it just zigs and zags and circles and sits, attracting attention from other boats in the sea, who look and point and laugh and laugh. So it is really good to try and be sure that everyone rows in the same direction.

Sometimes people get tired and mad, and they throw their oars, so you have to be really careful and duck. Otherwise, an airborne oar could chop your head off, and your head would flop and splat across the deck, and slip and slide and splash into the water, where the hungry sharks are waiting, to tear your head to bits and eat it.

Other times, people may get to fighting over their oars, and they say things like: Your oar is ugly, or Yours has holes and so does your mama, or Well, your mama’s so fat she plays pool with the planets, or You don’t even have an oar, do you, or You do you and I’ll do me, or Who’s the bitch that stole my motherfuckin’ oar.

And then they all start fighting and beating the living crap out of each other with their oars, and throwing each other overboard, where the hungry sharks are waiting, to tear them to bits and eat them.

People might fall in love and forget to row altogether. So they sneak in and out of portholes, and up and down the ladders at the back of the boat all hours of the night, and write notes to each other, and set up meetings. Since no one is really rowing, to speak of, the boat goes nowhere. It just rocks and rocks and rocks, and the hungry sharks laugh and laugh because they know that sooner or later a couple of lovers will fight, as they always do, and someone will get tossed overboard, for the sharks to tear them to bits and eat them.

It is good to have a nautical chart. Otherwise, the boat will get lost, and people will try to jump off and swim, but they don’t stand a chance, because the sharks will tear them to bits and eat them, and stuff themselves, then sink to the bottom of the ocean and sleep.

One day, when everyone is rowing in the same direction and following the chart, the boat will be the envy of all the seas. Other boats will notice that everyone is tan and healthy, and they will never know that there was a time when its occupants were beating the living crap out of each other and turning each other into shark food.

People on the boat will notice a whole new world out there, and they will say, we don’t have to stop at that little piece of land after all, because we can row to the land of our dreams!

  1. Well done my fellow ex-con…

    • Thank you disciplegideon. I am going to have a look at your site, and I very much appreciate you stopping by my site.

    • disciplegideon,You have a beautiful website!

      Please keep writing, plus, is there a way to comment? Since I am on parole, I cannot comment at your site at the moment, but I would like to comment from time to time, when my parole period ends.

      You are a wonderful writer, and I admire your spiritual strength and commitment.

  2. laluna says:

    “Incarceration is akin to being psychologically raped.”
    after incarceration, the future and lasting effects may include triggering PTSD in the event of exposure to any institutional environment where being physically confined is again realized, such as for medical procedures or an inpatient hospital stay.
    even when survivable, every dimension of incarceration seems sub-human and universally cruel, especially to non-violent offenders. surely there is a better model to render justice.
    as they say, what doesn’t kill us will makes us stronger.

    • Yes, I struggled with the mental aftereffects for quite a while. My notes, for example, sat dormant and disorganized in another room for more than a year, and even now, from time to time, even though some of the writing is darkly humorous, it triggers the occasional severe headache or realistic nightmare.

      I do not allow fluorescent overhead lighting, and we do not have cable.

      Exercise, particularly an outdoor walk or jog helps, as does the simple passage of time.

      Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your comment.

      • laluna says:

        thank you for shining on a light on what we pretend does not exist, but, of course, does.
        here is hoping your strong voice will continue to be heard, and your story told and retold until there is a change, however small or large.
        peace, Crane.

  3. Thank you laluna, and yes, one of my initial goals was to let people know a bit more about the daily life inside the secret society of jails and prison.

    The first thing I would like to see is educational materials in the jails and prisons. This is my next project. As it stands now in the jails, which Kentucky is rapidly turning into prisons, there is absolutely nothing for inmates to do to improve their situation and craft a realistic plan for the second half of their life. Inevitably, when all hope is lost, there is but one option, and that is to become an institutionalized repeat offender.

    It does not have to be this way.

    If you have ideas for reform, I would love to hear them.

    Privatization is not the answer.

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