New work from Norfolk City Jail Project: Women’s Block


I know what desperation feel like.

It’s never been a good feeling.

Not even when it was for the positive. So I’ve always thought desperate was a bad word. But today, I have a different point of view. A new perspective. And I think desperate means to me, and feels, like motivation. To be determined to get “it.”

I’ve been desperate for love. So today I love myself.

I’ve been desperate for money. So today I work hard.

I’ve been desperate to be “perfect.” So today I just give my all, do my best.

I’ve been desperate to be free. So today I let go.

I’ve been desperate to be emotionally pain free. So today I embrace the pain and process it.

All this I do today because I am desperate.


Melinda Ireland



My Red Stilletos

The outside is red and the inside is black. They’re arched in the middle and pointed at the tip. They have tall heels, size 8 1/2, made of 100 % genuine leather. They’re made by Steve Madden, and you can smell the strong leathery smell when you open the box.

I love these shoes because they define my calves and put a stronger twist in my walk, a smile on my face and sass in my attitude. They definitely make me feel like a queen.

I first fell in love with them at the age of 11 because they made me feel, look, and walk like a model. They definitely wanted me to want more. So I was able to make money off of wearing heels.

I started making money at 15, the first time I solicited myself for money. I didn’t feel afraid. I felt bold, grown, and confident.

And from that day forward, I made up my mind that if I wanted to do anything that I was unsure of, put on a pair of seven to nine inch stillettos, and it will boost up my confidence.

Shannon Parker Bryant


The blankets in here make me itch. I have a circle of yellow roses opening up on my itchy blanket that look like a big old map. They ask me why I am blind in one eye and can see out the other. My name is Tracy, and the path is fair because I got good hair. Red, white and blue without a trace. I meet you face to face. Feeling helpless when I fall in the hall. Back up, standing. Tall, beautiful and all.

Tracy Droughan








People say you have to love yourself to feel complete. But what if your definition of completion requires finding another to complete you?

I always thought I needed to be this quintessential person before I found my true love. I thought I had to be more outspoken, weigh less, and cook more. I thought I would never have to apologize to myself again because I’d be my own version of perfect.

I learned very quickly when I met Jay that this wasn’t the case. I was still afraid of life outside of loving him. I wasn’t where I thought I needed to be. I was afraid of my potential.

But I realized that meeting him and loving him jumpstarted my own growth. I became highly uncomfortable in the living situation I was in because I was still hiding my true self in a stifling environment.

Loving Jay and learning from him inspired me to stand up for myself when I felt wronged. I also learned that distance is necessary from those who hurt you and stunt your growth. I noticed as I changed, those who didn’t recognize me or support me became less of a priority. And through that, I’ve been able to focus on what and who really matter.

I’ve realized in this journey that being complete isn’t the end-all and be-all. It’s the process of completing that is ongoing, and make the progression much more worthwhile.


Shawnon Corprew

yin yang

Like a Light

Out my window stands

a pole. At the top is

has a light.

It only has one purpose.

That’s to light up the night.

It stands tall. It stands

still. It doesn’t have

feelings. It doesn’t feel.

Sometimes I wish it were

me. At least then I’d be

free, lighting the way

for people to see.

Yet here instead, I lay

alone in my bed. Emotions

run circles around my head.

Maybe one day I’ll leap,

then forever I’ll sleep.

I’ll lay flat; I’ll lay


No more rides; no more thrills.




Three from Autumn Botond-Blazek

Ray of Light

…And when sorrow sings her songs

And all my rights just lead to wrongs

I know that a voice still rings

And fills my head with memories

That once had color and sang in rhymes

But now those colors leak through lines

I search for light, a tiny spark

A ray of hope within the dark

And though I dream in black and white,

All my wrongs now turn to rights




Everyone feels pain, either physical or mental. When the pain becomes too much to bear, marks are left in its wake. These scars are then covered from the prying eyes of this dystopian world we live in, our scattered thoughts full of shame and regret. The shame morphs into more pain and the cycle continues evermore; we bow our heads and march on in silence. But scars should not nor ever stay hidden; they tell a story that desperately wants and needs to be shared. While sometimes hideous to look at or hear about, these marks are reminders of what we endured, what we managed to stand and fight against. Scars are not a mark of the loser, but the mark of one of enormous strength. Be proud, wear shorts or short sleeves and show this opinionated world how tough you truly are.




For centuries people always conformed to the idea that they have to follow in someone else’s footsteps. This day and age, it is more or less the same. However, throughout history there have been extraordinary individuals that broke the mold; writers, artists, politicians, and so on. Today, there is an entire generation being forged in the fires of self-importance and individuality. Do not ever follow the beaten path; be different, be unique, stand tall and shake the heavens. You’ll become the inspiration so many people seek out and often come home empty-handed. Be the one that people will say stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one that taught them to move on through criticism and hatred, to stare into the eyes of the beast itself and grin as you walk by. You’ll have made a difference in someone else’s life and that is without a doubt the greatest accomplishment of the mind, body, and the soul.

be the change

For You by Rebecca Laberge

When pom poms

Don’t make as much noise as church bells

Still cheer

When silence is deafening

And negativity is all that the outside world tries to feed you

Still cheer

Still move

Still smile

When the world around you feels like its cracking from an earthquake

Still cheer

When there’s no one in your corner

No one by your side

Except Sade’s song on repeat in your earbuds

Still cheer

You have support

You have love

You have made you proud

Still cheer

Because despite what the naysayers may tell you

And even though feelings change and shift so hard like the wind

My love



For you

Are the strong one

Like the pillars in Greece

Like the weeping willow that weeps daily but always sways beautifully

Like the glitter that’s in your eye

And the smile that brightens your face

You are

Everything and more

So please

Still cheer


The Pink Umbrella by Richard F. Fuertes

It was the summer of 2014 in Chesapeake, Virginia. I just woke up from a relaxing nap. Then I felt hungry, so I cleaned myself up and ready to go our to a nearby grocery to get my snack. I grab my postman bag with my water in it and instead of using my summer hat, I decided to use my pink umbrella. As I walked from the side street I was humming my favorite love song, “Just Once,” by the late James Ingram. As I by-passed the bridge a big loud sound shouted You Faggot!! Faggot!! Four teenagers in a red car passed me by and laughed at me.

I was so scared my heartbeat started pounding and my panic attack was terrible. I decided to walk slowly and suddenly paused walking and I just pretended I don’t hear anything. I am so afraid that they might get out of the car and do something that is harmful to me.

I decided not to go to the grocery store and turned back home. Then I suddenly realized and it pop in my mind. That the pink umbrella that I was using was the trigger point for those teenagers who shouted and called my faggot. It was a traumatic experience for me here in the United States of America.

I felt so hurt and felt humiliated, being a member of the LGBTQ community.

It’s been a struggle for me that bullying and stigma exist.

Whatever color of the umbrella we are using either yellow, blue, black, white, or rainbow colors. This will not be the ground of our personal identity or labelling.

Stigma and bullying hurts one’s feelings.


My pink umbrella will always be in my heart and in my mind and be remembered as my self-representation from my journey as an LGBTQ. That I once experienced bullying and I felt the stigma. As I conclude, a quote from Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel. 



The Mourning Tree by Autumn Botond-Blazek

The night seemed so quiet, a guise of innocence belying a visage of anguish and despair. I walked through the glade, my every step silenced by the breath of wind that carried my love’s now-empty words, “Please, please come back to me…”

Every blade of grass held crimson dew, glowing black under the crescent moon. My wounds continued to rain my once precious drops of life as I let the breeze dance through my hair.

My love stood paces from me, her smile keeping a firm grip on my shattered memories, keeping them from scattering in the gentle wind. Every step I took was an eternity and a fraction of a second, just to be near her once more, just once more…

She stood beneath the cypress tree, I spent my youth under its branches, beckoning me to lay below as I did so long before. The pale light waned as I got closer to her, my sight already dim, my wounds crying ever on.

Darkness stole the final wisps of moonglow, though my fear finally found peace in the fragments of my once-chaotic mind. The wind’s haunting chorus bellowed through my locks, her whispered words still so clear, “please, please come back to me.”

Though mine sight had gone from failed light, the cypress’ arms welcomed me as the gale slowly ebbed to nothing. “I finally reached you, love,” I spoke quietly to her, tears finally warming my benumbed face. I’m so very sorry I took so long…”

I cypresssmiled wanly and laid beside her, my torn and broken body thankful to be at rest. “You were right…” I whispered through winces of fading pain. “I was never meant for this life…”

I laid my hand where she once laid with me so long ago. The stone was moist and I recognized the sound of rain. Had my sight not perished, I would have truly cherished the sight of the cypress crying as it mourned yet one more loss of life.

I kissed her grave as a curious warmth claimed my shivering, diminishing body. I closed my riven eyes one last time as my blood blanketed me on this, my final bed.

I heard her voice, for once so clear, yet soft enough for my ears, “Please, please come back to me.” With a dying sigh I replied, “I’m here…I’m here with thee…”

Word Inspiration: Boiling by Shawnon Corprew

I was watching a documentary the other day that had a focus on mental and emotional health. There was a part where it compared hiding mental and emotional health issues to a pot of boiling water. If you leave it alone and don’t tend to it, it’ll boil over and mess will be everywhere.

I feel like my pot of water is finally simmering. Calming waters are on the rise, and I feel like I have more space to myself. My work days used to be filled with stress and more responsibility than I can handle. But yesterday, I was able to start organizing my desk, clearing off accumulating dust and make more room for peace.

Usually, when it comes to Tuesdays, it’s a day full of being present because of so many things happening, including the realization that I have a workshop piece to do. All of these things (with work mostly to blame) usually drain me. But today I felt more alive than I’ve felt in a while. Maybe my new medication dose is helping as well.

If I could describe anything that’s boiling within me in this moment, it would be all the writing ideas I have, and I missed that. Looking forward to pursuing them soon.



Within & Without by Autumn Botond-Blazek

Within and Without

I find myself in a strange state of being as of late. At night, I wander in and out of consciousness, never truly sleeping as my mind races a million miles a second, always circling in a spiral of images. The line are blurred, the colors bleed into each other in a sunset of greys, greens, violets, and reds, reminding me of the haunting beauty that this awful world can offer if you look hard enough. Amidst the swirls of accidental art is a void which nothing in my broken mind can escape — the event horizon of my depression so vast, poisoning everything that its leathery black tendrils can grab, causing the sunsets to darken violently without a trace of violence. I stand alone inside this pool of goop, a stone circle of the thickest steel surrounding me, my only defense from myself and yet also my blockade from the rest of the outside world. At times I hear voices from outside my wall crying in and part of me perks up, a dog hearing her name called after years of silence, with no way to communicate back. Sometimes the wall will split apart ever so slightly and I can see with a tranquility that most find to be a mirage within a fable. During those happy periods, the darkness swirls and bubbles, knowing it always needs to feed, waiting impatiently for me to crumble once more. I turn away from it and wander outside my wall towards the light and laughter and love as it slowly inches away from me, just one second quicker than I. I start off at a crawl as pleasant sounds fill my sorrowed mind, notes of joy that color my sky blue and yellow. As the sounds begin to fade, I begin walking faster, doing my best to keep the melody in sight, never blinking lest I recede into the pool of muck that lies behind and all around, an inevitable drowning that I constantly try to prolong. The silence begins to beckon, its boney fingers reaching towards my now-running self; the radiance, once so close, now a speck in a dying sky. I run and I run and I run and I finally close my eyes as burning tears fall from my eyes, realizing that I never left my wall at all, remembering that just because you can’t see your cage does not mean that you are free. The walls close in and I fall to me knees, trying once more to find sleep, safe from everything but myself, the sounds of silence deafening, debilitating, and destructive to what I’ve managed to hold onto through the storm of purest darkness, no light to be seen. But I will wait and wait and wait, because some things aren’t meant to last an eternity, sometimes the darkness ends, and I intend to see this through, through the many trials and tribulations that await me. In my weakened state, lying in the fetal position, crying for a mother I no longer have, I whisper quietly, “Bring it on.”



My Superpower is Existing by Jay Corprew

We are all teachers. Whether we realize it or not. I know some of us actually work hard to educate others on matters that are important. While many of us just go about our lives and, by our actions alone, we teach people a great deal about who we are.

Since I have been out as transgender and have made it a point to be a big part of my community, educating and advocacy have been my life and passion. I’ve learned a great deal about gender. And although most people think transgender people know everything there is to know about gender, that’s often incorrect. In fact, we all are still learning about it.

We know everyone has been taught differently by family. Friends. Society. Church. School. Television and social media. And most of those things have been false teachings. So transpeople become students in the world of gender. Many of us feel forced to educate others about gender. But yet this isn’t our job, nor our responsibility.

However, learning is everyone’s responsibility.

To me, gender does not exist as much as we think it has. Or should. Nor does it work in the way we’ve known it to. For instance, those who are not transgender never seem to have a moment when they actually stopped one day and went: Am I really a man or a woman? Or neither? But yet their gender is accepted easily, while transpeople must jump over hurdles, win races, provide excessive evidence and references of their gender or lack of one to everyone else.

So what is gender? Coming from someone who should know a good amount about it, I will tell you that it’s purely an identifier. One that’s personal. Usually hidden within the mind of a person and usually only shown if we use that specific set of human laws that we created over the years. But in the end, no matter what law or boxes humans create for gender and other identifiers, we still have so many who will never fit.

Identity isn’t A or B. It isn’t one or the other. Or check 2 out of 6 boxes. It’s personal. It’s unique. It’s ever changing.

And for some of you reading this, you’ve learned something maybe. That makes me a teacher.

Transpeople are constantly teaching people. Schools. Governments. Family and friends. Themselves, even. We do it without meaning to. We exist and therefore we teach people (who were taught wrongly or differently) that maybe gender is not what they thought it was. Maybe it’s so personal that it cannot be wrong no matter what opinions are given.

It I could I would switch the word “gender” with the term “skill.” Because teaching is a skill that not all of us are good at. And isn’t that what we all do? Without realizing it even. We teach others who we are. What we love. Or hate. What we’re into.  What we’re good at. We are forever teaching everyone we come across. Even for the shortest amount of time. The way we express ourselves to the world is our unique way of teaching others who we are.

My “skill” is being a teacher — who happens to be male. And my superpower is existing in a world that isn’t kind to those who don’t fit their laws or boxes.