Tuesday, July 26, 2016



It has been awhile since Laura Swearingen-Steadwell e-mailed my wife, Libby, asking permission to publish my poem, “Sedimentary,” in a literary journal. Of course I said yes. It is an honor to be considered for publication by PEN America, whose august members have encouraged and mentored my writing career for over 30 years.

This week I received a copy of the book, “PEN AMERICA, A Journal For Writers And Readers, #19 HAUNTINGS,” and I’m taking my time slowly reading all the selections of poetry, fiction, memoirs and essays, enjoying the works of internationally-known writers and poets.

I was intrigued by the journal’s theme, “Hauntings,” and how my poem fit in. I wrote “Sedimentary” a couple of years ago (March, 2014), and had to re-read the poem a few times to refresh my memory. And I could see some connections, subtle, not overt, memories of childhood, which I’ve been writing about for years.

Some of the writers talked about ghosts, and their experiences with ghosts, a topic I’ve explored, still feeling close to so many of the dead who affected me in life, and continue to affect me in death. I’ve written about them in my poems, perhaps the only way I can express my feelings of loss, and desire to keep their memories alive, not to be forgotten. Thinking of those other poems, I realize that there are probably better ones, more applicable to PEN’s theme, but “Sedimentary” is the one that made the cut, I’m proud to say.


Years before we moved into the little white house
on the hill a road construction crew sliced off
the hillside edge to make way for the highway
as easily as Mama cut a loaf of sourdough bread.
Rains washed down the hillside and flowed into
a drainage ditch beside the road, revealing layers
of soil, sand, clay and limestone rock that provided
endless hours of fascination for three little boys.

Standing back and taking in the colored layers before me,
digging into interesting hues with a teaspoon, I uncovered
a broken chipped flint arrowhead crafted by
some hunter forgotten and long-dead, transporting me back
to a prehistoric Florida wilderness untamed by the
white man’s machinery, imagined hunting with the Creek
ghosts for deer and squirrel, leaving behind no evidence
of their passing except for that sharpened arrow tip.

Another day I dug into a deeper orange clay and
found fragments of petrified wood lying where the
tree fell onto the forest floor eons before men came.
Then came ancient seashells embedded in a
mysterious layer of sand that tasted salt on my
tongue, tiny white periwinkles, clams and scallops
still perfect in their symmetry, sleeping
next to a darkened, stained sharkstooth I saved.

Our miniature Grand Canyon never failed
to reveal hidden treasures to my digging,
mementos I saved in a cigar box with old coins.
One day as I silently pondered my life and events
from childhood, digging deeply for lost memories,
I realized that my life was like that hillside, composed
of layer upon layer of sedimentary experiences
waiting for me to scrape away the sand with my spoon.

$10.00 per copy; also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks

Hope you enjoy the read,

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


June 23, 2016

Although Disenfranchised, Prisoners Still Can Express Their Opinions

A new magazine, XfelonINK, A Voice For Prisoners, has published their first issue, consisting of art, poetry, short fiction, and short non-fiction, by prisoners nationwide. Libby got her copy in the mail recently and was excited that they chose my poem, “In The Prison Of My Rejection,” and essay, “Something Happened In Prison  Yesterday,” for featured publication. I’m looking forward to receiving my copy.

It is too late to include in the Spring issue, but the Editor-In-Chief, Suza Lambert Bowser, in Arcata, California, sent out a request to conduct an informal poll of prisoners asking who they support in the Presidential election. I spent a day surveying a cross-section of men  here at Columbia C.I. Annex, near Lake City, Florida, and was so surprised by some of the comments that I decided to write this summary. We are denied the right to vote, but as long as the First Amendment is still in effect, we can express our opinions.

I mention the Freedom of Speech aspect because of a comment made to me in 2000, by a Ku Klux Klan  (KKK) prison guard, after I told him that prisoners retained their Constitutional rights. I’ll never forget what he said, “The Constitution ain’t in effect in Columbia County.” (Note: he ain’t employed as a guard anymore).

Back to Hillary and Donald: I surveyed 33 prisoners, a little over two percent of a total population of around 1600 (about ten percent are in lockup, unavailable), broken down as follows:
  • Black —      9   (27%)
  • white —    13    (39%)
  • Hispanic — 8    (24%)
  • Other —      3    (9%)

Age ranges: 18-25 (2), 26-35 (10), 36-50 (9), 51-65  (9), over 65 (3)

Survey question: “If you could vote in the Presidential Election in November, who would you choose, and why?”

  • Hillary:  22   (67%)
  • Donald:  10   (30%)
  • Neither:    1    (3%)

Why?  Donald Trump supporters:
  • Because we need change. I want America to be great again.”
  • I would never want a woman for President. He’s not a politician.”
  • He’s not politically correct. That’s the problem with this freaking country now.”
  • He’s a real m___f____. He don’t play any games.”
  • He’s a Republican. I’m from New York.”
  • I think the U.S., in dealing with Israel, we need someone with money.”
  • Trump has no political experience, sounds more like a child.”
  • I don’t trust Hillary.”
  • Not Hillary, that’s for sure. I’m against women right now.” (Note: because of his charges).

Why?  Hillary Clinton Supporters:

  • Donald spews too much hate.”
  • Trump wants to deport illegal aliens. I’m an illegal alien.”
  • She’s an equalist.”
  • I want to see her make history.”
  • She’s a Democrat. I think she’d make a better president.”
  • Because of Bill.”
  • Least of two evils.”
  • I like Trump, but I hope Hillary wins. I hope she lets people out of prison.”
  • She’s got more morals. She’s not like Trump, who wants to throw people out.”
  • I think she’s more worthy of the position. She’s been there. Trump’s a loose cannon. He’s a good businessman, but he’ll get us in a war.”
  • She’d be more politically helpful to do for the people.”
  • I’m not into politics. We all look for change. For the people, with no racism, hate, or discrimination.”
  • I just think she’d be a better president.”
  • She’s smarter than he is.”
  • Her husband was black.”
  • Because Bill is her husband.”
  • I feel she’s more qualified.”

Why? Neither — (1) — “I wouldn’t vote. I don’t like either one.”

If you’d like to read the Spring Issue of “XfelonINK,” go to www.xfelonink.com, to order your copy ($9.95), or download for $4.95.

By mail:          XfelonInk
                        SLB Productions, LLC
                        600 F Street  Suite 3#711
                        Arcata, CA  95521

If you’re interested in seeing what is happening outside the mainstream, check out “a voice for prisoners, both inside and outside the razorwire.” XfelonINK.