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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 73 “Release youR diabetics! “ Release youR diabetics to tRauma!” this is prison’s wake-up song—the deafening, metallic squawk of the Pa—and, for many women here, it signals a trip to medical for a morning insulin shot. i’m at mci Framingham, a medium- security prison twenty miles from boston that’s a catchall for female offenders: homicidal lifers, sex workers ravaged by crack and meth, check-kiting welfare moms, scared high-school kids caught with a joint during a crackdown. “couRt tRiPs! medical tRiPs! “ tRansFeRs! Releases to admissions!” i whisper my day’s mantra: “may i be at peace. may my heart stay open.” i pace my cinderblock ashram, warily eyeing the dreamer in the narrow bottom bunk. she’s my twelfth “roomie” since my ar- rival two years ago. unconcerned about her crime, i have few cri- teria for successful co-habitation: i don’t want her to steal my pens and i want her to be a sound, late sleeper—giving me the relative bliss of an uninterrupted hour of morning yoga and meditation. in a ten-by-ten cell, with a metal sink on one side and a metal desk on the other, the only way to navigate through a sun salutation is to have my roomie’s sleeping body within inches of my face. in cotton pajama bottoms and department of corrections t- shirt, i greet the splash of sunrise spilling through the grated and providentially eastern-facing window. “breathing in, i vow to speak loving words. breathing out, i vow to think loving thoughts.” Kuh-thunk! cell doors open, and the first wave of human babble breaks over me, the sound of seven hundred angry, depressed, and con- fused hearts slowly breaking. Ready or not, we’re propelled into the day. a day not much different from the one before—imagine subtle shades of gray, punctuated by achingly brief bursts of col- or, like fireworks in the fog. breathe. i leave my room. First task: mop and sweep. it’s a prison version of the Zen saying: “before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. after enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.” “Ross! RePoRt to meds! now!” i join a line of women, who on the outside tend toward anorexic- thin from their spartan diet of street drugs and the constant stress of living under the radar, but who are now swelling from The Great Escape Yoga and meditation help PiPPin Ross escape the hell of America’s oldest prison for women. illustRationsbyKimRosen