IWP Angel

Last week, with a small group from the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, I visited the Indiana Women’s Prison.  We met six women who are incarcerated for violent crimes.  They surprised and amazed us.  Each woman is dedicated to healing herself and healing others.  Each one has devoted herself to service.  Each one has seized the opportunity to change her life.  Each one battles low self-esteem.  Each told us this:  Every woman in prison needs someone – just one person – to tell her she has worth.

I was particularly struck by one woman, who is serving a sixty-three year sentence.  The morning after the visit, I wrote this poem:


You’re an angel, I said, walking away from her

Mosquito nets
The finest in the country
Made right here
One net can save the lives of
One mother and two small children
One whole village
Saved from cholera

It took me seven years, she said, to see over that wall
Now I’m comin’
No one’s gonna stop me
I’m comin’ to serve

She directs dance liturgy
Choreographs the gospels
On her wrist she wears
Eight brightly colored bangles
With ribbons hanging down to her knees
Bright purple, pink, red, orange

Wake up!  Wake up!  You have worth.  Wake up!

She wrote a letter to
One of the new girls
The new girls come in angry
Get mad, get a boyfriend, get a girlfriend, get high
She wrote a letter
Told her she has worth
Told her to come back to dance liturgy

You’re an angel, I said, walking away from her

In the dead of night
The crack of lightning
Woke me in my bed
I wonder if it woke the angel
Does she have nightmares
Does she awake with beads of sweat on her forehead
How many mosquito nets
How many dances
Before her god releases her
How many dolls
How many blankets
Before we see over that wall

You are an angel, I said, walking away from her

When they are released from prison, the six women we met will face incredible challenges.  They will need a place to live, a job, and a means of transportation.  They will need to feed, clothe and care for themselves and their children.  They will return to their old communities as a new person, with a new agenda.  Their lives have been on pause.  At the moment they are released, they press play, and all the pressures of daily life return to them.  Who will help them get a fresh start?  Who will tell them they have worth?



One thought on “IWP Angel

  1. denisecordingley

    C’est vraiment toi qui est si douce, gentille et si innocente ma petite…C’est toi qui est notre ange dans ce monde qui est quelquefois si dur et difficile pour nous. C’est cette dame qui a eu de la chance d’avoir fait la connaissance d’un ange comme toi. Que je suis fiere de toi.
    Ta mere qui t’aime enormement.
    bises xox


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