Monday, November 24, 2014

I've Been Prisoner

I've been prisoner to a haunting melody and the birthing of a song for the past couple of months. Friends ask me what I've been up to and my brow wrinkles in trying to remember—to have something to say, to report, that says I've been productive, been “doing,” been saving the world, or at least a few souls. But I come up with empty shelves behind my brow—shelves that, at best, are supposed to contain trophies and certificates for my goodness and productivity; or, at least, several lists of things that I'm in the process of systematically working through.

I was ecstatic a few nights ago when a friend asked me what I'd been up to, and I knew immediately! I've been up to my ankles, up to my elbows, up to my ears in this birthing process. Slogging through muddy not-quite-right lyrics; scrubbing away words, lines, whole verses and reconfiguring my thought processes; listening to my heart and allowing it to beat right along with the rhythm of the words.  It has been a maddening process and a satisfying one all rolled up in this one, 25-line song. 

The first verse and the chorus came easy after I received a JPay email from my friend Phillip.  He had come in from a rain-soaked half hour in the recreation yard at Wabash Valley Prison, sat down at the computer in his cell-block, hammered out a perfect example of a “fast write,”—no caps, no corrections, no second thoughts—and zipped it off to me.  I “poetized” his writing and sent him a hard-copy.  He loved it and has given me permission to share it:

Rec Yard Reverie
I was laying on the concrete track
in the recreation yard,
staring up at the starless sky, thinking—
about family, friends, and freedom.
The darkness in the sky made me think
about all the unknown that’s out there
beyond this planet.
It made me think
about all the unknown moments and memories
that I never got the opportunity to be part of
because I’m in here.
Then it started raining.
I just laid there with my eyes closed
and imagined it was my ancestors,
my homies and my loved ones
(dead and alive)
crying down tears of joy
and tears of sorrow—
down on me, like:
“I hear you, I see you, I feel you.”
…I’m doing alright.

And so Phillip’s experience, and his putting it into words, planted the seed of a song in my heart and mind. While sitting at Table 9 in the Visitors’ Center at Wabash last week, I couldn’t wait to share the good news with him, to tell him I was “with song,” to quietly sing those first few lines to him. I sang it twice, at his request, so the melody would wind around his heart and mind, as well, and stick with him after we said our goodbyes.

In the car, at the kitchen sink, walking in the woods, waking in the middle of the night and with the morning sun, this song would not let me go. It has been a harder birth than I expected when it so effortless impregnated my song psyched. Guess that’s true with most births—all’s fun and games till embryo takes over body and pretty much has its way till it demands expulsion nine months later!

Thank goodness and those fickle muses that seem to come and go at their pleasure that at least this didn’t take nine months! And now I’m ready to send a hard-copy of this my fully developed, newborn song to Phillip. He’d probably pass out cigars is he could. I have no doubt we’ll be nurturing it—together and in our very different worlds: singing it, sharing it, and trusting it to touch others with its simple message of love, compassion, and possibility.

Night Came Early

Night came early that evening
Clouds were heavy and the sky was so gray
He lay flat on his back in the rec yard
Looking up at no Milky Way
Looking up at no stars and no moonlight
His mind a-drifting through the sky
Thinking 'bout family, friends, and freedom
All the beauty he had left behind

And the rain came falling down
A million teardrops from above
Ancestors, homies, and loved ones
Crying with the man they loved
Crying with the man they loved

He climbed out of his body that evening
Circled the prison yard 'round
And just like the city of old Jericho
The walls came a-tumbling down
He rose like a prayer into the cosmos
Carried high on the wings of his mind
Wrapping arms around family and freedom
Crossing the boundaries of time


Soaked to the bone on the concrete
Flying 'bove the clouds in the sky
Crying tears of joy and of heartache
For all the beauty still out there to find

Repeat 1st Verse                     
Glenda Breeden & Phillip Stroud (October-November 2014)

Glenda for The Poplar Grove Muse

1 comment:

  1. Would love to hear you sing this one day, Glenda! Great to "hear" your voice again. Just lovely