New Writing from the Women’s Block, Norfolk City Jail

Why Are You Here?

I am here writing as I think on the lines of this paper. I love this class because I would like to write about my life one day and not be afraid that someone would see it and be mad about it. How and what I feel. If I could write it like it is. And the way it was.  I am the writer. And I can tell the story better than anyone can.

Rhonda L.D.S. 2159




I’ve said goodbye so many times. said I want to be free. That I was ready to cut all ties. I loved you — God, how I loved you. Being with you made me feel alive. Everything was brand new. You took me to soaring heights. Candy-filled days and dreamy nights.

But the end was bitter. It was agony. It was hell. I felt so worthless. I was a ne’er-do-well.

You had dominated my days. Filled my nights. Destroyed my dreams. You changed me. You weren’t anything you seemed.

When I met you, you were amazing and charming. You were my friend. But you brought me to my knees, and I knew our relationship had to end.

Your kisses stung and pierced me all the way to my soul. Your love left me breathless and I surrendered control. You took everything from me and left me with nothing — no life, no pride, no dignity.

I’m taking it all back now. Because I heard I deserve more than the love of a drug that leaves me broken and sore. No more broken promises — no more empty vows. This time I mean it. I’m really leaving you now.

So long, old friend, I’m ready to heal and set my broken heart to mend. I’m finally ready to put our sordid love affair to an end.

Danielle Grillo-Burgess


Growing Pains

Well, I’d like to believe I’ve done quite a bit of self-growth. In fact, I know I have. I take care of me so much better than I ever have, especially mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I feel myself growing and learning things in areas I’ve not felt before. I see maturity in my conversations and feedback I give others. I tend to keep the war out. It doesn’t star in my play anymore. I see self-improvement and I’m striving to see more.

Crazy Beautiful


(Sculpture: Lick and Lather, Janine Antoni, 1993)



Well, if I start with why am I here on this planet that would be all too obvious — the birds and the bees speech.

As a child I thought I was here to protect my father.

Why I am here in this chair is a bit of a different story.

My father and I moved to Virginia when I was thirteen. I met my soulmate at fifteen. We’ve had one hell of a ride these past twelve years, but I still know our love is stronger than anything else in this world.

My downfall, at least recently, was when he was locked up and I was alone and lost. One day I got in a car accident when the brakes went out in the car I was driving. With no license and being out on bond, I panicked and ran. The police found me hiding in a bush. Though I tried to get away, here I am now in jail.

Since being here I have gotten into the Programs Block. Recently my best friend here got into Programs as well. She is one reason I do believe I ended up here. I was meant to meet Gomez. She is really extraordinary and my best friend.

After getting into Programs I saw that creative writing was back to sign up for. A friend suggested I take it if given the opportunity. She loved it. So I took her advice and signed up.

After signing up and starting class I realized she was right.

So now I am here in this chair today, not to look good for court with more classes.

I am in this chair in this class because I really like this class. What’s kept me in this class the most and made it fun and worth the time was my teacher, Ms. Lisa. Ms. Lisa has an amazing heart that shines and a bubbly, fun personality. She is what makes this class, creative writing, and everything worth everything.

Thank you, Ms. Lisa.

Love, Samantha Trepanier








New Work from the Women’s Block, Norfolk City Jail

My Guardian Angel

When I was a child the first pet I remember having was a dog by the name of Grunter. He was the best dog you could ever have. Grunter was pretty old. He may not have been the most playful, but he always looked after me. I considered him my guardian angel. For you to understand why this day I am about to describe means so much to me, I need to first go back in time a little — to a day of terror I will never forget.

I was four years old, playing outside with my cousins. We were racing up a hill when a nest of ground hornets attacked us. I was stung from head to toe. I still remember the pain and fear I felt that day.

Now fast-forward a few months: One day I’m inside playing when I hear the buzz of two bees in the house. Fear kicked in immediately as I watched them one at a time come toward me as if to attack me. As they got closer, Grunter jumped in front of me and ate both of them one at a time before they could attack me.

I was so thankful and worried at the same time. I just knew he must have been stung in the mouth by the first one, let alone to eat the second one as well. To me this was his way of saving me. He was and still is — to this day — my guardian angel.

I love you, Grunter Trepanier.

Samantha Trepanier


New Writing from the Women’s Block, Norfolk City Jail


My first meaningful accomplishment was on August 1, 1997 at 2:01 pm. I gave birth to my very first love, Lisette Nichole. I was nineteen years old and had been married for almost a year. I have had many meaningful accomplishments and have had more children since then, but nothing compares to having your first child and the awe you feel looking at this beautiful, innocent, tiny piece of you that you created. Counting their fingers and toes, smelling their hair and neck, and kissing their gorgeous little faces. I remember being so in love with her that I wanted to bite her.

Today Lisette is twenty-one years old and attends Texas A&M University. She is a beautiful young woman who continues to awe and amaze me with her intelligence, beauty, charm and wit. I pray she feels the same sense of pride in her accomplishments as I feel in the accomplishment and privilege of being her mother.

Danielle Grillo-Burgess




Procrastination fluttering in my ear, keeping me up. Whispering to me all night. Atonement. I’ve given you my soul. Who am I to say I’m worth more than you? Who are you to tell me otherwise? It’s not by choice or luck. Empty and hollow. Like bones being carried in a cloth sack. Pulled apart like a puzzle in the darkness. Measuring me up from the corner. Staring at me. I feel it. I cried for you — being sentenced to death. I cried for me, too, up until our last breath. Something so quickly, so hungrily made to wait with a black mask in the corner of shade.

Jessie Austin




The house still smells like the burnt grease from my failed attempt at frying chicken last night. I’m brushing my grandfather’s silk-white hair with his antique wooden brush that he has had ever since I can remember. This is a ritual that he and I have had daily since I was little, where he teaches me life lessons. I brush and I absorb his wisdom. Everyone loves him. He is known as Pops, but to me he is Pop-pop. “No matter how many times I try,” I say, “I burn the outside and the inside is raw.” “Tosha,” he says, “You’re my pill too big to swallow. You have no patience. Slow down. If you don’t learn how to cook, your family will starve. I won’t be here forever. I’m counting on you to learn these things. It’s not fair, but the burden is on you. You will have to do the laundry if you want clean clothes. All the little things that will have to be done — you will have to do them.” He puts his head down in his hands for a few minutes. I get worried and say, “What’s wrong, Pop-pop?” He looks up at me with tears in his eyes and says, “I’m sorry you didn’t get a better chance.”

Tosha Felgenhauer




Auoka! Auoka! I am worried about you. 

He would auoka about what?

It’s time to go for a walk.

I would like a treat!

Someone’s at the door!

It’s time to eat!

Auoka is his way of talking to me.

He is a Tea Cup Yorkie.

His name is Dallas Bell.

Yes, he is a Cowboys fan as well.



Rhonda LDS 2159



New Work from Flash Memoir, Women’s Block, Norfolk City Jail


At twelve I was still in school and living at home with my momma, stepdad and siblings. At the time we lived in Carolina. I enjoyed school, was active in sports and cheerleading. Somewhere along the line I became tired and afraid. I began skipping school, getting involved with an older crowd. Running away. I hated my stepdad, hated what he did, so staying away was easy. Each time I ran my mom would somehow find me and bring me home. Until one day she couldn’t. I just could not stay any longer. I was drinking, popping pills, dancing in topless go-go bars, private parties. I was making it on my own. My mom was so sad and missed me. But I believe she knew why I did what I did. She just didn’t want to accept it for fear of standing on her own. I resented her for years for not believing — but she did. She just couldn’t leave him at the time. I forgive her and I love her always.

Crazy Beautiful



Joey & the Hot Dog

“Appit. Appit. Appit.” Joey was my little brother and he didn’t talk so well. He would point and yell at me in his own language, and I knew he wasn’t telling me how much he loved me. This particular day his breath smelled absolutely horrible. For about a week I brushed and brushed that kid’s teeth and nothing helped. One night when I was putting him to bed I saw something in his nose. So I started investigating. This was no easy feat. I gave Joey the nickname “Ghengis Khan” because he was so mean and bad. He fought me with everything he had. That little two-year-old boy was strong. I ended up sitting on him and digging in his nose with a pair of tweezers while he screamed like I was killing him. Finally, I got it! It was a piece of hot dog rotted in his nose. OMG. It was gross. I asked him why he would put a piece of hot dog up his nose and he answered me with, “Appit, appit, appit,” with a smile on his face.

Danielle Grillo-Burgess



Waves crash tirelessly,

tumulting into fresh dunes.

They roar mightily,

glistening above a land

we cannot see.

The schools of creatures

their hands carry.

Intensely they focus,

rebounding again and again.

Possibly to catch only one grain of sand.

Soaring to huge heights they crest,

rolling tirelessly back to the one missed.

This grain of sand I won’t give to the waves.

My herculean strength brought it to me.

Where the waves are large,

I am determined also.

Diligently, I seek another grain

to build a castle.

These grains will be yours

when I finish,

just not the ones in my hair.


Tasha Grover



Our fight to be free,

in the beginning so desperate —

blind to what is obvious —

willing to scratch through

brick ’til our fingers bleed.

Believing ourselves when we

stand to be judged: I am clean; 

I am not guilty. Or some

other insane reason we have

for being here.

Here like a malnourished

shell of a human — shriveled, sunken,

empty from the years of self-hatred

and heroin. I watch my self walk by

over and over again to plead for freedom.

I see myself.

Such a fallacy.





He strips me down naked

selling me dreams

not knowing he’s stripping away part of my


I close my eyes until it’s over

his pleasure, my pain

but he has something my body craves

so I keep my eyes closed until it’s over

I picture myself in a better place

praying for better days

Lord knows I don’t want to live this way

but he has something my body craves

when it’s all over, I’ll leave

but he will have something I’ll never get back

a piece of me

all because he had what my body craved…


Hanna Bear


New Poetry from Norfolk City Jail

In my truest form I am…


soft light

barely burning embers glowing and warm

the reflection of the moonlight on water

a warm breeze that kisses your face

and tousles your hair

the perfectly imperfect shell on the beach

one of the endless grains of sand

a lightning-filled sky

the leaves in their glorious hues as they

skip and spin in the autumn wind

I am of the Earth — connected to all that

is and all that has been

and of the air where ideas and imagination


I am the eye of the storm where I

can see clearly

all that came before me

and all that comes after

I am everyone I have loved so fiercely

I am a warrior

I am all of this and more

in my truest form

I am beautiful…





Have you ever looked in the mirror and not recognized

your reflection? Screaming silently when you finally

faced the amount of negation you gave yourself

and you’re the one to blame?

Is it pain you’re feeling or shame?

Are you disappointed or guilty for who you let yourself

become? If you took a knife to your heart would

you bleed? Or maybe you’re just a misguided ghost

who needs an angel to come and lead…

A beautiful disaster that got stuck in the dark

place in the world. I am only trying to find

my way back to righteousness, to recreate

the pureness in my heart that’s been numbed.

But God told me he will bring me comfort,

show me mercy. I will see him and he shall

bring my home.


Hannah Busby, “Bear”





Sam, Why?

I have loved you so long

you selfish, ungrateful wretch

of a man. I try to find

good in you.

What you have done for me —

pain is prevalent. Was it

sobriety that made me see

the light? Oh! It’s so bright

right now! All I feel.

Hate, pain, and anger

running through my veins —

hot fire burning rampant

like love — why?


Anita Lacy




New Work from our Norfolk City Jail Poetry Workshop

No Matter How Many Times I Try


I can’t forget.

The images in my mind.

Needles on the floor, the putrid

smell of mustard and sweat combined

with cigarettes. I now recognize it to be

the smell of heroin withdrawal.

The bathroom. I hated that bathroom

with the lightbulb hanging from

the ceiling, broken tiles on the floor,

blood spots on the wall. Not being

able to breathe. I was so little.

I needed help. I needed my

mother. She couldn’t help me.

Heroin was her life. Not me.

I had to learn to take care

of her. I had to learn to

survive. I did. I learned

the best way I could. With

almost no help, no direction.

A desperate life fighting a

war, afraid of all uniforms.

Fear and shame are my first

and last names. Secrets are

everything. Lies are what I

do best, or so I think. Is

there a way out? Is there

a way out of this massive

earthquake that I have created?

My capabilities are endless

but I continue to sink, fighting

for air but wanting to drown

at the same time unable to

decide whether I want to

surrender because I

am really that tired of climbing.


I will continue to climb

my way out of this rubble —

swim through the storm, blue-

bruised and struggling. Fighting

my way out. I will

get out.


Anita Lacy





You never really stopped

the pain. You were always

such an illusion. You never really

comforted me, just dressed me

in confusion. You never left

my mind at ease, just kept

me in a depression. You never had

my back at all, only left me

to more excursions. You never gave me

back all the love I started

to worship you with. You kept my soul

under lock and key forever

welded shut. You never really cared

at all, not even just enough

to pull me out

of the darkness I’m in.

You just made me

tough. You never gave me butterflies

always prickles on my neck. You were

always so delusional, falsely

dealing with life. At first you were

all fame and fortune and money fast

at your best with what comes

with the territory never expecting

next. I should have learned my lesson,

but just got closer with the dead.

You never showed me how

to deal, just got deeper in my head.

Through sickness and health, you said.

But you always left me in my dread.


Jessie Austin



For Adam


Your eyes rival the sky, brilliant

clear and blue.

Your hair like fields of blowing wheat

kissed by the sun.

And you ran like the wind,

no matter where you were

whenever the mood struck you

as if you could fly.

I recognize the ways you are

like your father and like me,

and like no one else.

I have the Mother’s Day card you

wrote in as a little boy,

thanking me for taking care of you.

What a wonderful gift.

You worried that your forehead

was too big — which I thought

was silly because to me you were


I remember the way you spoke

your truths.

Straightforward, honest, to-the-point.

How much you fretted and worried

about doing the right thing.

When your brother was  small

I got upset with you for

calling him  “zebra.”

I underestimated you, I know

that now.

You were not being mean, only trying

to prepare him.

You were being his big brother.

His first thought was of your daughter,

a part of you. He will watch over her.

Your sister cried — something I haven’t

seen for so long.

Then she did what she always does.

She took care of you.

When I asked her how she deals with it

she told me she sees you in all things.

In every leaf and blade of grass,

every breeze and raindrop.

You are not gone, but everywhere.

I miss you. No matter how much

I feared for you —

and maybe part of me always knew

there was no way

to prepare for the loss of you —

I try to know how hard it was to live

inside your mind.

And to understand the choices you made

to be unhindered and free

from almost all things.

I wonder if you left on purpose.

Sometimes it didn’t seem as though

you cared one way or the other.

Yet you have brought us all closer.

I don’t claim to understand.

I only know you are brave for

choosing your own path.

I am thankful and proud to be your mom.

I carry you with me. Happily. Always.

I know you want me to be strong,


I know you expect me to be a lady.

I will try.

I am forever changed, as I should be.

Be free, my beautiful boy, and know

you are well-loved.


Kim, Adam’s Mom