how peace in the moment can make peace in the world
to mix, with the edge of my thumb,
to reach out my vermilioned brush
For more, click “Prison Writings”
ANOTHER PLACE TO BE
A prison is a place under the sky, a particular spot on the planet, with its weather, its wild air and wild light. In the fortress-like pink stone building in downtown Boston, where I was jailed when I first surrendered, my cell looked down on a single city tree, six stories below. When I was moved to a cell that faced nothing but the slab walls and reflective windows of another wing of the jail, I sat at the wood platform that was bolted to the wall for a desk, looked out at the intense blank blue of the October sky and wondered how I would survive.
My Ten Books
For six years I lived in a prison cell where I was allowed to possess ten books. I could also have the books for courses I was taking in the prison’s education program, but only for the duration of the course for which they were assigned. My jailers were not particularly anti-intellectual; they had security concerns. They had to limit the amount of flammable material available in the event that we staged a riot and started burning things up. They had to rigidly control clutter in case we might be using disorder to hide a weapon, drugs, an unauthorized plastic container, or an extra piece of fruit.
Some inmates defied the rules. They would accumulate extra books, counting on the casualness of the officers’ searches to slip them by. But I went to prison to give up being an outlaw, to stop spending mental energy wondering if I would get caught at something.
My Journey to Non-Violence
In answering the Page Five questions, I want to make it clear that my offenses include not only the events of 1970, when Walter Schroeder was killed during a bank robbery, but also my 23-year flight from justice and my defensive posture at the time of my surrender. I particularly want to acknowledge that the Schroeder family have been victims of my action in each of these three phases.
Phase I: The Robbery and Murder
Now the writing is interrupted by a big drama on the phone—China has escaped from the locked unit of the psychiatric hospital where she was sent after her third suicide attempt here. She charmed one of the male attendants into leaving a door unlocked yesterday and is supposed to be on her way to some place in Florida that he set her up with. Of course he rolled over the minute they held the prospect of jail over his head. That explains this morning’s room raid—I am the Vietnam war radical, and she was the Cambodian refugee. There is a certain logic in thinking that I might want to abet her.
Washing the Bitterness Out
Frightening to think that life could hang on a shred of garbage: on a spiral of orange and white skin uncurling from a fruit, droplets of orange oil escaping from the peel’s bruised cells under a prison inmate’s fingers. As I sat slumped in a flimsy tan plastic chair in the dayroom, the familiar, bleak inner fog weighed my face into heavy-muscled immobility, this dullness a final retreat from the sadness about nothing, about everything, that is depression. I’d gone to the prison serving room for dinner but eaten nothing, the bread like cotton and the peas like paste in my mouth. I lacked the energy to walk the rest of the way to my cell. Once I would have wondered how I would live through the night. By now I knew I didn’t have the drive it takes to defeat my billion body cells in their millions-of-years-evolved, organ by organ determination to go on living.
Even in this heavy state some reflex of my peasant/chef sensibility rebelled at the loss to the trash of what, with a little sugar, contained the possibility of brilliance.
A Recipe for Radishes
I used to write recipes for a living. Every day a half dozen culinary arts students would troop into the kitchen at the community college, tape up 8½ by 11 inch sheets full of my hand-printed amounts, ingredients, and procedures, and make lunch, including vegetables, for two hundred people.
Last night, the night before Thanksgiving, I visited every supermarket and ice cream store in town looking for rum raisin ice-cream and frozen squash. I had planned to recreate the dessert from my final prison Thanksgiving, caramelized squash tartlets in flaky pastry shells topped with the rum raisin ice cream.
The scoured tub and toilet bowl remind me that my hope in surrendering and going to prison was that when I got out, I would be able to hold a job and keep my house clean.
This is not like a love affair—
Still Life, September Afternoon
Night eats at the day from both ends.
Day 400 of the Rule "No Sitting on the Grass"
In the camps they will tell you
Someday will you lead me to the river’s edge,
The Poet's Life
I’m with you, Brodsky,
I suppose they must have exhausted themselves,
I checked for them
Three Poems on a Prison Suicide
You have to be really serious
A bright young thing, I went off to make
I was young, I was righteous, I knew it all;
I defy the rules
[My Sorrow Sits, Like a Strong Magnet]
My sorrow sits, like a strong magnet
At home the daffodils have naturalized
rhododendrons I do nothing at all for
No zucchini flower, fecund work complete,
[for William Kunstler]
But the sudden death of old men,
[The Swiss priest said...]
The Swiss priest said, “Look
He took the boys for ice climbs
Your rage, indeed. You raped out your rage
You say in passing that you sometimes thought
I want to make my hand into a fist
Elegy for a Cowboy
The December Death Certificate records AMI: acute myocardial infarction, heart attack
The final rend in a heart that broke three months ago,
[As, one November, I split firewood...]
As, one November, I split firewood in the heavy fog
The old uncle remembers,
The Seven Year Olds
To her mother, Where are you going, Mommy?
To her friends, She lives in jail.
__The goal of spiritual direction is to develop in the directee
You lifted me up from my place
and for an instant
Sometimes we would argue over
Where once we dried and tore the lettuces
[Snatches of Vivaldi show up]
Snatches of Vivaldi show up
[Insatiable, my eyes]
Insatiable, my eyes
on the sidewalk, tannic
Fine, bright new-growth grass
About Katherine Power
I didn’t set out to be a terrorist. As a student activist, I moved from protesting the war in Viet Nam to waging guerrilla war to overthrow the government….