New Work from the Norfolk City Jail Project/Women’s Block


Through the Glass (after Mona Kuhn, Mirage, 2012)


Who is this woman I see?

Sensing her hesitation as she

covers her breast.

Thinking to herself, “Damn, I hope

I’m not compared to any of the rest.”

As she stands there vulnerable

as can be.

Only now does she begin to question

if her body is meant to be seen.

She chose to come here and give

him a try

because the other guy abused her

and made her cry.

She’s this far in with nowhere

else to go.

Thinking, “All right, with my next step

it’s time to give him a show.”

Who is this woman I see?

Looking through the glass, she

could just be me.

Becca Raye



The Pain Surrounds Me

I am consumed by my mistakes. Insanity motivates my impulsive actions. I’m trying to be strong, but all I feel is weak. Trying to consume my time with distractions. The laughter of my kids feel so very far away. Destruction of my happiness is all I see throughout the day. Disassociation of my emotions. Because it hurts too much to feel. What’s my diagnosis, again? I ask as I swallow another pill. I’m looking for something, anything to fill this void I feel so deep. Why do I feel so empty? Why can’t I be enough, the one who fulfills me? My heart sinks instantly the moment I open my eyes. Where are you, God? I scream. Can you even hear me? You say all you need from me is to fear thee. Can’t you see, though, how my heart if breaking? Can’t you feel, though, how my faith is shaken? I know I chose the path I am on. But where was your warning all along? So you provide a way out? Then why do I feel stuck? Where are you, Almighty, while I am shit out of luck? Consumed by the chaos I can’t comprehend. I feel conflicted by anger, anxiety, anguish. Confusion is my closest companion. Peace is my most distant friend. Annoyance at the ulterior motives of others and of my own self-righteousness. Lacking assurance of a future I can’t see. Just wanting to break away. Crowing to be free. My mistakes and desires play over again in my mind. My own personal imprisonment of lost time.

Ashlee Marsh


A Memory to Cherish (after Max Liebermann, Bathers on the Beach at Schevingen, 1897)

It’s a beautiful day. The sky looks like an array of colors like purple, mauve, white, swirled all together to give out such a serenity and peace that will warm your heart to a sunshine smile to put away as a treasure in your heart. What I see is a private beach, children playing in the water to where you can hear the laughter of all through the moves of the waves. There is an older man built the size of a mountain holding a cane, wearing long pants, jacket, and a perfect brown hat that fits him perfectly. You see the man in the picture is a father spending as much time as possible with his two sons to know they will have memories to cherish of their time with their dad. You see you can’t see me in this picture, for I am behind them, painting this picture in my brain to share a memory of a man who loves his sons with every breath, taking in to exhale the Lord above gave him another day to make a memory to cherish in our hearts. This picture gives out courage, strength, determination, love, and most importantly if you could be there, you would see all that I see. Look past the children to see the ocean is never ending, eternity to life. Thank for you a memory to cherish, my dearest true love.

Loreen Pendergrass



Untitled, Zachary B.

Believe you me, I know the world ain’t the first and it isn’t the last. I know in a blink of an eye, we go from learning to walk to learning to become a memory. Our whole lifetime is only as long as it takes my father to spell his name. What am I but a forgettable moment? I know tomorrow doesn’t care how much I hurt today. The roots hold too many boys who look like me. Their names packed on sneakers and around stems.

Write to the Word – Alex Kemp – Norfolk Jail Project


A web is a very interesting object because it has various avenues but end up at the same spot. The middle, the source where everything happens — sleep, sex, feast — it’s sticky, but yet it’s not. It’s only sticky to the objects — or subjects — that hadn’t spun it. It’s a danger zone, but yet it’s utopia. It’s a mystery how it always geometrically sits. Every corner is sharp. Every line is straight. It’s crazy how it reaches from one object to the next and the insect that spins the web has not one wing. I wonder how much web is in that insect. Is it unlimited? Is it limited? And how is it that the spider can walk on it without getting stuck and the other insect gets stuck waiting for its death. The spider doesn’t have to rush to get to it. It takes its time. Just goes about its day ’til it decides its ready to eat. All different kinds of other insects — big, small, skinny, fat — whatever is in that web, dinner for the spider.


Patience will, I think, help you understand. Will fill you with knowledge. Help you relax mentally. You wouldn’t have a lot of brain chatter. I have heard having a lot of patience or even some patience will have you looking young even it you’re old. Having patience will help you explore yourself deeper than the surface. You wouldn’t have a lot of mental or emotional pressure built-up anger or hatred, you’ll be able to understand not just yourself but others.


As I look down upon the green grass or the white bubbles that form after the waves crash, or the top of the heads that move about, or on the faces of the people that lay under me and my friend who brings light and heat. Or when I’m looking at the eyes when they are staring at me, when they are wishing or praying to the most high that dwells in the comforts of the self while white fluffy patches that seem to move about so gracefully certain hours of the day. Sometimes, I send little pellets of water to be more involved with the ecosystem, to cool down the Earth a tad bit. Nobody likes it when I turn gray and gloomy, but everybody reaps the benefits when I’m a pretty, light blue.


A cup is a cup regardless if there’s something in it or not. It’s like people — all sorts or colors, shapes, designs. They can be sentimental. Some have handles, some don’t. They come in plastic, ceramic, glass, copper, brass, colorful or dull. Whatever it looks like, it’s still a cup. If you use it, you can use it for liquid or holding objects. It can be a subject or an object. It’s just a cup.


Absolute means everything. To have control. When you put an -ly behind it, the definition changes to, “That’s correct.” Or it also means, “Definitely wrong.” But one thing for sure, that word is bliss. It can also mean nothingness. Everything in the world is absolute: good or bad.


Different sizes, different shapes. Different colors, different designs. Once you fuse it all together it makes a picture worth putting together. Sorta like understanding nature. Understanding of people, life. Or just having knowledge of…for instance…my journey every minute. I see different shapes, sizes, different colors, different designs…scattered all over here and there trying to mentally put pieces in the right spot. But just like a puzzle, there are always pieces you can’t find. Or you get distracted and you lose interest in finishing the task at hand.


Extreme is a test, not only to test the limits, but also to go above and beyond them. Sometimes, extreme can go left — especially when extreme goes from pushing past limits to verbal and being all dramatic about something. So extreme is not only physical, but also verbal and sometimes mental when people think to extreme about themselves or others. When the word “extreme” comes up in a conversation, people automatically think “exciting” or “crazy.” Extreme is something beyond feelings. It’s in whatever way it’s used. It comes to the subconscious as fearless, brave. Not scared. Without fear, either physical or verbal. Just fearless about anything you do or anything you say. Just extreme.


High, low, up, down, here, there…all through books, newspapers, internet, closets, garages, in, out…open spaces, closed spaces. In corners, in half-circles or cul-de-sacs. Avenues, boulevards, streets, ponds, lakes, oceans. Tall grass, short grass, holes, trenches, and still have more to go. But I will not, because even just not trying to search is an infinity, an ongoing search.


Norfolk Bound

Fast cars, bums, crackheads, and police. The youth still play as if nothing’s wrong. Just a regular day as the empty weed bags blow. At night, gun smoke and endless sound of sirens over the night’s cries. From the glimpse of life I’ve seen, sometimes mostly wishing, hoping it was all this long dream. In this life hopefully I’ll summer down to my city’s blues.

Clifton F. Gaylord


Five from Dark N Loveless

A Nightmare on Elm Street

It was a summer I would never forget in the year of ’02, I was hustling packs of crack for a dude named Dean, but bad blood had got in between the tightness of the bond of friends. He needed his money, but the money I’d owe him was tied up at the moment. I was getting double back for giving my custy some slack and I tried to explain that, but in the heat of the moment he wanted to take it to the stage. So I said, if you take it blood then homeboy you paid. He acted like he wanted to make a move but I told him,  don’t disturb this groove. So I slid off to go pick up my bread, then went up to Elm Street to pick of the rest of my spread. I’m at this chick’s crib sniffin some of the finest kc. I hear voices outside the window. I look and guess what I see? It’s the dude from my block that I owe the money to, so I put on my shoes, hit another one, then two. Proceed to jet down stairs to get him out my hair. His fist was in the air headed for my face. Fear of blood I don’t wanna taste. I guess the money’s not the case. Ducked out the way in a hurry then gave him some mcflurries. I know his vision was looking blurry. His eye was looking lumpy and when I’d tripped and hit the ground his crew begins to jump me. I’m still giving him the business ’cause y’all rats ain’t gone just punk me. After the fight was over and the dust was clear I start to walk off, blood still pumping. Not feeling shit, can’t wait to take another hit. Fuck it. I still got the dough, so why let it go? I’m off to the store, but there was something that was said that I couldn’t ignore. He said I was leaking, that’s what he was peeping. There was blood all over my boxers and my pants was soak. Then I’m like damn, I’m too young to croak. The hospital is on the other side of town. I was gonna catch a cab, but then I saw a fire truck, and flag his ass down. Got me there ASAP, no worries, except for the tubes in and out my body and staying there for two weeks. Plus being on a liquid diet that I couldn’t eat. I’d thank God that I lived ’cause getting stab ain’t sweet. That was my nightmare on Elm Street.


How many times you gonna be a fuck up? How many countless days, months, and years your kids gone see you locked up? Andre, you’re so selfish I can’t stand you! The many nights I’d stayed up worried if you was coming home or not. Listening for the ring of the phone or the sound of that knock. You could build a dam from many nights I’d cried myself a river. How many times you said you cared? How many times you said you wouldn’t go nowhere? I can tell you how many times I love to hate you.


Fighting 2 Get in or 2 Get Out the Gates of Hell,

after Luca Signorelli, Damned Cast into Hell, 1503

It’s a royal rumble in the spiritual form, out of body experience way out of the norm. Get in where you fit in, take it how you want it ’cause you’re now in a place where you don’t have God’s grace. The child can be possessed by a demon. If you think none of this is real then you must be dreaming. It’s time to wake up ’cause all those souls are screaming. Some are bound to go up and some are to stay down. It’s an endless war — you can witness the bodies on the ground, motionless without a sound. Survival of the fittest, blow for blow and pound for pound. It can be a crew or every man or woman for their self, but to get out of here you gonna need some help. But if you really wanna stay that’s quite okay, just do Satan a favor and send more his way. God’s angels is up there on deck holding the fort down, so protect your neck. Good deeds or no deeds, God will always love you the same every single day someone is calling his name to save us from this Hell on Earth but humans was first to be called the blame we was cursed!



Practice makes perfect, that’s what they say. So if you don’t even try, what’s the point anyway? Practice what you preach. Don’t believe the hype. When I tell you people who go left, I swear they ain’t right. Practice being the person you was destined to be, ’cause if I was you, I wouldn’t wanna be me. So take it as a positive saying, it’s never negative to practice your state of mind and let it keep playing.



I’m going against the odds as of now. For the time being I’m in a tug of war with angels and a bunch of demons. My back’s against the wall waiting on the call. Blind-folded –win, lose, or draw. Everyone’s against you hoping that you fall, but when your life’s in play death can bring it to a pause. When you go against things, that’s hard to defeat. Going against a friend or foe. Keep one close and one at a hundred feet.


After Masaccio, Holy Trinity, 1424


If he was supposed to be royalty and they did that to him, what would they do to me?

Would they hang me on a cross, or would they set me free?

Would I even matter to them? Would they pay attention to me, give an open ear up to my story, even listen?

They made him pay and he was one of a kind.

Will I pay ten times more because I’m ten times darker, and my hair isn’t fine?

I can’t heal the blind and would never be able to turn water into wine.

I can’t walk across water. I can’t feed a nation. I can’t spread love in a world full of hatred.

So when they crucify me, have no sympathy. Only one portion of me is gone for I am the Trinity.

Jaquon Cowell [2020 I heart Mo

After John Martin, Sunset Over Rocky Bay, 1830

sunset over

My soul is hollow like a tree that’s missing a piece of wood. I’m something like a shadow to witness — not good. So when it’s dark and hell is hot my heart is cold to the touch. A ship on dry land. The boat that couldn’t rock. Every day I feel like I’m headed for doom. Am I out of season like I’m coming from fall, going into winter? It’s too soon. In those dark clouds you can hear the thundering sounds, a hint of red mist. Look up at the skyline. I’m darkness at its finest hour. When you think it’s sweet, it’s sour. The temper’s short, but it can grow tall like towers. So who am I? I’d asked myself a million times and I still haven’t found the answer to cure my cancer. She made my heart even colder than before. Imagination running wild but my thoughts are dead serious. Put a knife through my chest because life, I want to finish it. Do you know what it means to wake up in your dreams to see a perfect picture, but it’s not all that it seems? They say aim high and settle for nothing less. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Things might move in slow motion, but it’s a work in progress. God said, Let there be light — but I’m dark and loveless.

Dark N Loveless

2 from Dark N Loveless

  1. This is the spirit that dances around the fire surrounded by smoke. The fight between good and evil, God and the Devil — witch doctors playing with bones after the smoke clears and you’re left all alone, god-willing in one piece. Make sure the fire is out ’cause it can restart. Evil spirits can grab at your heart.
  2. I wanna be anywhere but here. It could be near or way over there, but anywhere but here. Right now if I got to pick anywhere to be it would be with my family anywhere — in the open ocean sailing the seas. Yeah, I choose a place anywhere to go — far, far, far away. Think of a special place — anywhere — you would like to be. The human mind is a powerful tool that sets imagination free.





Music While You Work, after Aaron Douglas, Aspects of Negro Life


The sounds of the working souls, just another hard day at work while you listen to the smooth music of the jazz as it plays through the day. You know it’s hard out here for a pimp and rent ain’t cheap so don’t keep the water running and turn off the heat. It’s time to get your grind on to the beat, swing your arms all around and move your feet. If you have friends in high places it shouldn’t be hard, all you need is a brand new deck and pluck the right card, you may get lucky and be the man or woman, understand? For 40 hours a week, you can be like him walking on that gear round and round, day after day like a damn hamster wheel. Listen for the horn at lunch time, play the sax in the open blue sky, people giving tips as they pass you by. My, my, my, such a beautiful tune, fall, winter, spring time — but love to bring the heat in June. Let the spirit grab you. You know what they say: All work and no play is one stressful-ass day. There’s always love in the heart of the city, even when it’s grimy, it’s excitement in the city. The music is the drug that keeps you hug in the city. The music is the outlet that’s where you put the plug in the city. It might be bugged out, but you’re never a pest to the city. We know life can get ugly and things will get shitty, but by the end of the day you had the music to keep you busy.

Dark N Loveless

I Really Miss My Mother by Jaquon C.

I really miss my mother. I swear sometimes it’s like I dream about her when I’m not even asleep. I can be in the middle of doing anything and out of the blue she’ll cross my mind. Things will always be different seeing that she’s not here to connect the dots of life. I would rather her be anywhere in the world besides dead. But now that she’s gone, she’s my good luck charm forever. I owe thanks to God for still keeping me and still allowing me to have the strength to complete my mission because since my mom’s passing I’ve been hurt and very down. I feel as if I’m in the middle of a web and all of life’s problems are surrounding me and I can’t get past them unless I go through them. Whenever I do make it out of this place, I will never take my home, my family, but most importantly my time for granted.