“His words are a white dove that flies to the sacred mesa of my tattered heart.”
In 1995 I started teaching creative writing in Central Juvenile Hall, Los Angeles. Eventually, we published a book of writing of the students called What We See: Poems & Essays from Inside Juvenile Hall. This books has touched the lives of thousands of youth. The program brought young people who would be enemies on the street together around the writing table. We need more of this type of communication, reminding us of what unites us rather than what tears us apart.
Here is an article about how I started IOW: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2002-jul-13-me-jvwrite13-story.html
Here is a favorite short essay from the book that pays tribute to one old man who will never be famous but who quietly makes a difference in other’s lives. These are the real heroes.
It is fitting that the words of this brilliant young writer, Rocky, became the anthem for InsideOUT Writers:
“I have exchanged my weapon for a pen, my battlefield for a blank page.”
I stroll into the medical module for a check up. A lady with a pig’s chin hollers my name. I stand and look at all the strangers’ faces that have been led astray. I turn and walk to the back of the module to see the preserver of health. I walk into his office that contains a medical bed, sink, trash can, rolling small stool and many medical devices. He sits on the rolling stool and directs me to sit on the bed.
I sit and greet him, “How are you today?”
He replies, “Ah, the gentleman, it is very nice to see you again.”
This man is old with wrinkled white skin. He has oversized glasses that look like motorcycle goggles. His hair is white and receding. It stands up like it has been shocked by lightning coming from angry Greek gods. He reminds me of Albert Einstein. He is a beautiful old man.
I have engaged in conversation with this man before. He spoke to me words of wisdom. He has a voice as soft as cotton that can talk a baby to sleep. I listen to this man intently, absorbing every word flowing toward the landscape of my mind. I start to wonder if my situation would be different if I knew this man all my life. His words are a white dove that flies to a sacred destination, through the canyons of my brain, over the ocean of my inner body, and finally to the sacred mesa of my tattered heart. It folds its wings back to its body and finds a resting place among the various holes in my heart.
This man, I don’t even know his name, has chiseled his signature in my life. I am grateful to have met him.