New Work from Norfolk City Jail: Surrender Your Weapons


Contain yourself:

it’s an expression I often find

myself repeating

because of you.

Like the ocean I adore

just breathtaking in

every way.

Beyond the tides that are drawn

and constantly pushing me away

there’s also the tides that pull

me in real close,

never wanting to watch them

wash away.

Control, it’s what I have to do

when I discover I’m

submerged in you. Can I trust

your currents to keep me safe

when it begins to get deep?

I could float all day and night

letting your waves lead the way.

Just promise you’re not here

to tame me as I drift away.

Becca Raye

Inner Selfishness

I hear the echo or the voice of my inner selfishness speaking to me.

She knows not to pursue, but must satisfy the voice and not the universe.

That same echoing voice becomes my guilty nightmare.

I try shaking off the coldness of the inner voice.

Deciding to walk dow to the old magnolia tree, but something tells me to cast my attention to the field of lavender.

The breeze sends a whisper catching my trance the dancing lavender roped me into.

That whisper repeats: You don’t want to be that same woman anymore.

I remember that folded up piece of paper covered in coffee stains and the stench of cigarettes that has been kept in my back pocket since the day I walked down to the waterfront proceeding to perch, grabbing what seems to be a perfect pebble.

But the voice of my inner selfishness yells at me, reminding me there will never be something that pure.

Wanting to toss it out and watch it skip across the lake.

But not today, my inner selfishness says.

I know what to do to evolve from that selfish voice before it consumes me forever.

I catch myself yelling out loud.

Even though my mind is real flimsy when it comes to knowing what is right and what is wrong.

I still draw my attention back to that folded up piece of paper, reaching to evict it from my pants pocket, gaze over the 2nd thing I never wanted to let go. Light it on fire.

The embers fall gracefully into the crystal blue vortex of my secrets.

I revisit where I was before reliving every second, storing what I can in my mind.

I never would have known that I would keep your motionless body buried deep beneath the old magnolia tree, facing the lavender where you will smell beautiful forever while my inner selfishness keeps you near.

Ashleigh Brown AKA Nikki


I had what I believed was a heroine.

When I was cold, I had you as

my favorite fuzzy blanket.

You entered my body like a tsunami —

a complete warmth that

changed my mood in seconds.

Always there even if your loyalty

didn’t seem the same —

at least you stayed by my side

when I just wanted to ride.


you have made me go through

a car collision that wasn’t

meant for me to survive and

still I kept you by my side.

I would convince myself how

much the comfort of your love

outweighed all the destructive ways.

Just like that I walked through

the desert seeing the mirage you

put on

realizing my way of feeling your

comfort lead to my most

uncomfortable moments.

I have not only allowed you

to take over and rewrite my life,

I have let you control everything

so there is nothing I can claim

was mine.

You have taken away everyone that

I loved,

had me with the people

that couldn’t give a damn about

me really.

So enticing, I let you engulf

my consciousness, while you laid a veil

over my eyes.

Ashleigh Brown, AKA Nikki

Today I Reclaim

Today I reclaim the me

that I once knew.

No longer dragging anchoring,

stale situations along beside


I reclaim my words, actions,

and mind

keeping all the hate behind.

How much I missed that

woman I once knew.

I reclaim who I am outside

of a man or friend,

no longer struggling to

divine what’s supposed to

be mine.

This was hard to come by.

All the succubuses tried sucking

me dry.

After reclaiming so much of

my time.

I am starting to do

just fine.

Next time, I will tell people

to get in line.

Ashleigh Brown, AKA Nikki


Empowered women empower women.

We are supposed to stick together.

No matter the skin we’re in.

Why do we continually tear each other down?

Mostly around each other with hate or malevolence

on our hearts.

Saying hurtful words to get skin deep.

We say we’re encouragers, uplifters, and motivators.

We can’t pick and choose who we do these

things for, you just do it.

We need to stand now together, heart

to heart. Soul to soul.

Let’s start today, make a deal with yourself —

your sisters around you that you will be

a woman empowered to empower women.

Shakila Manes

Grief Storm

A storm of darkness, no tornado warnings

giving the feeling of being in the eye of the

storm. Throwing me against a brick wall

shattering every bone in my body. Drowning

in sorrow with no lifeguard. Bereavement filling

my throat and nostrils. Deluding thoughts

have a chokehold on my mind. My heart

butchered like raw meat, eaten by a grief

so cold and numb. A chill down to my toes.

Body stiff as if rigor mortis has set in.

Carrying around the weight of a dead body

my tears rain down on the world. I once lived

in full of life and color which now is black

and white.

Shakila Manes

New Parody (!) from Norfolk City Jail

On Military Highway, blunt in my hair,

warm smell of crack rocks, rising up through the air.

Behind me in the distance, I saw a blinking light,

my head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.

Should have called it a night.

I thought I could get away ’til I heard the sirens wail.

I was thinking to myself, Oh shit, damn, what the hell?

Then she threw me some sandals, and she showed me the way.

There were voices down the corridor, I though I heard them say:

Welcome to the Norfolk City Jail —

such a dirty place, such a dirty place.

Such a musty place, such a musty place.

Running out of space at the Norfolk City Jail —

all fucking year, all fucking year —

you can find us here.

Our minds are defiantly twisted, all the money we spend.

We got a lot of canteen ho’s we call girlfriends.

Killing these fucking flies is hard, have me in a sweat.

I can hit it with my shoe, still won’t be killing it.

Someone told the captain I was making wine.

He said: We find that shit in here, you’re getting six to nine.

And still those voices are calling from far away.

Wake you up in the middle of the night,

just to hear them say:

We’re doing time at the Norfolk City Jail.

What a nice surprise, what a nice surprise,

found some alibis.

Toothpaste on the ceilings, bagged milk on ice.

Ms. Tammy said: We are all just prisoners here

of our own device.

As we grab our badges they yell: Time to feed!

We try with our plastic spoons, but we just can’t eat the meat.

Last thing I remember, I was twitching on the floor–

taser electrocuting my back. I can’t take anymore.

Relax, said the policeman, we are programmed to receive

You can bond out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

Angel Flowers Carrier

Laura Ko Knight

New Poems from Laura Konnight, Norfolk City Jail, Women’s Block


I’m tired of chasing.

I’m tired of racing.

I need to surrender.

I’m tired of dealing.

I’m tired of stealing.

I’m tired of geeking.

I’m tired of tweeking.

I’m tired of peeping.

I’m tired of not sleeping.

I’m tired of drinking.

I’m tired of not thinking.

I’m tired of smoking.

I’m tired of toking.

Today, I surrender.


Once upon a time, I met this lady

I call my friend. I didn’t know how

to fully be there for her, why she

shed some tears as she lost her

love one, and felt broken in

two. My heart began to melt

for her, as I shed mine, too.

I want the right words to

speak to her, so that I know

I comforted her through

this stage of grief. Lord,

help me to let her know

with or without words

I am here for her, too.


How do you begin to let go

when you feel you’ve just begun?

Your love is strong, but health

weak. I need you more today

than yesterday. So what I will say

is I will pray even more your health

will get stronger and our love will

be a great bond. As my tears overflow,

my heart beats fast. My mouth begins

to pray, and I fast at last.

3 by Laura K.


the breeze

so chilly

a dark

glooming perception

crawling and inching

its way

inside me

made me feel


yet mystic

it’s a

secret planted

in a


from long ago

what a desire

in me


wonders why


secluded and private



one secluded day

I met a young


her eyes


so faraway

it was like


in a mirror

which was



so wise


First Love

my eyes met yours

they couldn’t escape

I knew you had

me from the start

you were one in a

million like no other

everytime we were


it was like the


the twinkle in

your eyes

told me


I held your


I fit right in

I thought you

felt it too

where’d it go?

why did it end?





Three by Laura Konnight


I start to quiver, but at the

same time I feel as though

I’m having one’s cross to bear.

As when I look at myself,

I start to see change, but this

change that I see is pain, pain

turning my stomach upside down.

Now, I tell myself this pain has

got to be a disease, ’cause it sure

can’t be a punishment —

It feels

as though it’s cutting me raw

to the bone at times.

It is as though the pain is here, but

yet so invisible, with all these rough


And now, I’m feeling my pain is

getting hotter to where I’m boiling

to the point that my skin is peeling

right off my bones.

How much deeper and more

painful does my pain need to get?




Words are so powerful

to where they hurt a soul.

Words are so powerful

to where you feel like you

died inside.

Words are so powerful

to where you feel your

heart was sliced in half.

Words are so powerful

to where the words

shut you down in isolation.

Words are so powerful

to where it gets to the point



One Word

It all started one day by a

twist of one word.

My heart got all tangled to where

it felt strangled.

Then by the pull of a string I

began to become hurt.

Just like strings on an instrument

as the cords snapped in two.

So how do I begin to form

my heart to a whole

while it breaks just like a

twig in two?





Three by Tacarra Taylor

Black Man

Look at me, I say

I’m black and I’m beautiful

My eyes belie my pain

Riches after my pilgrimage

I hope to claim

I hope to escape the sale of myself and my

brothers and sisters

Going to Mecca

I won’t look back

Even though the sun is burning

darkened like a fine liquor

I walk and cross rivers

ducking the white man

Sometimes in the early mornings I shiver

but I must keep going

to reach my promised land

When it is reached

my people will cry and dance

Make our faces to figures of stone

Remember the lines of our faces

the trails we embarked on

Me, in stone, tell my story

long after I’m gone.

Tacarra Taylor



The vessel is still

even the dog doesn’t bark —

master’s boy keep the boat calm with

an oar.

Outside, it’s not dark.

Nervous, yet, I aim for a fish,

my prey.

Like a lion who roars,

spilled blood means food.

On a canoe

charged with keeping the master safe

if I don’t catch one immediately

I’ll wait and I’ll wait.

My hat blocks the sun, the brim keeps

me cool.

Being in this lake

is much like a large pool.

Although I’ve been ordered

I like me assignment.

Feeling in control.

Even when I sweat, my eyes

don’t roll for this.

I love master

because my chores take their toll.

Tacarra Taylor




The Block

Sturdy and still

Hard and filled

dusty and gray

erected every day

you can mold me and shape me

I turn into all sorts of things

very shapely

I crack and I fall

some call me a wrecking ball

I am used and abused

angry people kick me

they break my limbs, I am amused

Some call me a foundation

I helped found a great nation

I am what I am, but I’m not a rock

I can me made into many things

so call me a building block

Tacarra Taylor




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