Under the Mat

by Phil

Two inches of cotton wrapped in plastic, formed and fitted to resemble a mattress placed on top of a steel frame is where I lay my head every day with two sheets and two blankets and a pillow that wasn’t issued. Nope, I had to make it. That pretty much describes every bed in prison – just to give you a little insight on how we’re living. But, what makes each bed different? It’s not how the bed looks. It is what’s under the mat: a lot of legal mail and paperwork from the courts, pictures of loved ones showing support, swimsuit magazines and hood books of all titles, state envelopes, newspapers, some version of the Bible, a fairly new jumpsuit only to be worn to visits that is creased and neatly folded to give that “fresh” appearance, request slips to counselors that will never get a reply, broken down razors for a haircut and a line. And there’s that one thing we all hate to see: a calendar. But for some reason we still take a peak – that itself gives us a reason to never come back and put the things we cherish most, under the mat.

Phil is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans to start a not-for-profit for performing arts helping minority youth. I’d like to show them the alternatives to running the streets.

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Happy Birthday

by Phil

Can you believe that at age 29, I’ve never had a birthday party? Sucks, right? Imagine being seven or eight years old, going to your sister’s birthday party, or even a friend from the neighborhood and not having a party of your own. No cake or ice cream. I’ve never made a wish. I’ve never blown out candles. I don’t know what that feels like. I’ve always wondered: what do people wish for when they blow out the candles while they’re making their wish? I wish I had a birthday party.

Phil is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans to start a not-for-profit for performing arts helping minority youth. I’d like to show them the alternatives to running the streets.

Only Human

by Daniel

I am only human. There’s nothing special. I’m just me. I have no super powers that allow me to fly faster than a speeding bullet, freeze time, or control the weather and storms with the power of my mind. I consist of bones, skin, muscles, blood and hair, to name a few things. I am very lucky as I have had faulty parts replaced and have a computer keeping my heart going and in sync with my body. I have a million dollar plus body and to the eye you would never consider it true. Scars and imperfections seem to dominate not only physical imperfections, but also mentally, emotionally, and even socially. I’m not a great catch or that good compared to many that I know and see. I am just me. I am only human.

Daniel B. is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans to finish his sentence on house arrest and get back in touch with his church family.

Heaven

by Daniel B.

Will there be gum in Heaven? Such a strange question. We often hear it asked whether there will be pets in Heaven…but gum?

If our bodies are truly made perfect again – everyone will possess real teeth and won’t be limited to only Trident anymore. Gumballs, Bazooka Joe, Double Bubble, Blow-Pops, and Hubba Bubba – here I come. To many children Heaven would be someplace like Disney World. But this can’t be Heaven only if you can get gum there. With all its perfection you won’t see it there. Characters will never break form, you will never see a dying plant, and you won’t be able to purchase one thing…gum. Clothes, hats, jewelry, food, and trinkets galore – but no sweet touch of gum. It was decided that stepping on it would ruin the experience, so it was banned.

But I digress. Gum could be seen as the perfect learning life experience. We start with a hard piece, break it down, form it and shape it into a thing of beauty or a glob of slop. For the beauty and the taste. If all dogs go to Heaven…I hope they bring gum.

Daniel B. is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans to finish his sentence on house arrest and get back in touch with his church family.

Remembrance

by Chris L.

It leans on my soul – my memory. Fried chicken and collard greens clung to the curtains of the house like the woman held on to the scars left by the man who long left. And in their wake, they left an invisible sight of smell…the kind that scratches at your mind like puke-colored carpet.

There’s a swinging lamp shade in the front room that feels like money that was left balled up in a jean pocket, long forgotten. There’s a pristine looking love seat that hides the piss stains on the springs – left by a little boy who was lost in a dream.

There are burnished bronze baby shoes with name plates and pictures – and the lemon pledge-scented wood reminds you that even the past must be wiped clean to be kept pure. There’s a tanginess to the beads hanging from the doorway that are only meant to be felt and heard.

And if the entrance of this brick castle in the ghetto could speak – each little creak of the wood floor under the rug would let you know that there’s love here.

Chris L. is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans to share his soul in the form of songs and storytelling and giving back in any way that will help hurting hearts heal.

Ugly Beauty

by Chris L.

My ugly beauty is like a mirror with multiple cracks – that makes one flaw “seem” like ten, but if you really look at yourself then you’ll find what I found in my reflection – the sobriety that comes which no longer being drunk on the perfection of the past. That’s why my growth is constant because my whole existence is defined by the vibration of a school bell. I never know what the next classroom holds. And some of my greatest growth happens whenever I say, “I didn’t see that coming at all!”

Chris L. is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans to share his soul in the form of songs and storytelling and giving back in any way that will help hurting hearts heal.

Reflections on Intersection – Our 2018 Theme

This year, Spirit & Place is exploring the theme of Intersection, or what happens when two seemingly different forces or topics come together and how that creates differences in power. In advance of this year’s Festival, the Spirit & Place staff is further exporing this theme in their own words. 

Why is intersection a theme Spirit & Place wants to design a Festival around?

“Coming off the POWER year in 2017, we wanted to provide the community the opportunity to explore the ways in which complex issues, ideas, and even power structures, intersect with one another. We thought INTERSECTION might possibly give people the freedom to dig deeper into some of the issues they explored in 2017.“

“Spirit & Place itself thrives at the intersection of art, religion, and humanities and in the places were ideas, people, and organizations connect to make meaning, develop new solutions, and build community. We see these intersections as potent interchanges for creativity, collaboration, and civic conversation. In this way Spirit & Place serves as “bridging capital,” the term Robert Putnam uses to describe he necessary glue of healthy, thriving places.”

Is there a definition of intersection that resonates most with you?

“The artist Piet Mondrian, a 20th century Dutch painter whose work featured simple geometric elements, said, “Vertical and horizontal lines are the expression of two opposing forces; they exist everywhere and dominate everything; their reciprocal action constitutes ‘life.””

“I like how as a noun, “intersection” can mean a place where two roads meet. But if you remove the last three letters of the word it becomes a verb – intersect – which means to cut or divide by passing through. We do not live in a nice, neat, black-and-white world. It’s complex and messy. Subtle differences can mean a great deal and “intersection,” as a word and concept can embody all that.”

What does intersection mean to you (either you as an individual or S&P)?

“To me, intersection is all about a “place of meeting.” That place can be a mutually supportive space where ideas, people, and beliefs complement each other or it can be congested space filled with competing ideas and values. Either way, intersections are places where we need to slow down, assess what’s going on, and work with others to navigate our way through.”

“For me, intersections are opportunities for discovery and relationship-building. The meeting point of differing ideas and people is a powerful place for creation. American businessman and educator Clayton M. Christensen: “Almost always, great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before.”

What does S&P hope will come out of an exploration of this theme (event submissions, responses from the community, etc.)?

“As Program Director, my hope is that we’ll see a mash up of unique collaborative partnerships between groups not typically thought to have intersecting interests or identities. I’m a big believer there always connections to be found between people and I’d love for our event partners to model that in their collaborative efforts.”

“What I love about Spirit & Place is that is absolutely impossible to project what will happen. But we do know from 22 years of experience, that creating the opportunity for people to make new connections is a potent tool for strengthening communities and enhancing civic vibrancy.  It’s also my hope that the ideas explored this year will seed ideas for 2019, when our theme is R/EVOLUTION.”

What is an example of an intersection that is most interesting to you?

“I was a big fan of 2017’s POWER theme. So, I’m personally interested in exploring power-related intersections. I’ve currently been doing some research and reading based on Zeynep Tufekci’s work which explores the intersection of power, authority, and (big data/social media) technology.“

“I’m interested in the spiritual and social dimensions of making music, particularly group-singing.  As cofounder of SongSquad and Justice Choir-Indianapolis, I believe that group-singing teaches us to listen to each other more deeply, strengthens and activates our voice in the world, connects us to each other and to what we hold sacred, provides a window to other cultures and traditions, and provides a powerful source of communal joy. And it’s the cheapest form of therapy you can find!“

The list of events for this year’s Spirit & Place Festival will be announced later this summer. Keep an eye on this blog, our website and Spirit & Place’s Facebook and Twitter pages for more information. In the meantime, Spirit & Place encourages you to examine intersections in your own life and community. Where do different forces intersect to create the but, and, or in your life?