Inside/Outside

This weekend I participated in a writing workshop at Matsqui Institution, a medium-security prison a short drive from Vancouver. For two days, an equal number of writers from the “outside” and “inside” shared our work, wrote as a group, and talked about our process. I was glad to hear one “inside” writer say that this was the first time in a long time he felt like he wasn’t in prison.

All of us wrote a short piece using the same twelve words. The weekend ended with us reading these pieces aloud: poems, stories, comments on the weekend, critiques of the words themselves. My piece was inspired by the many forbidding signs I observed on nearly every wall in Matsqui, providing directives and warnings. Here it is:

Directive Reversal
Don’t get your hopes up.
Don’t be so vanilla.
Don’t bank on it.
Don’t commit a cardinal sin.
Don’t resist the rap.
Walk, don’t run.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Don’t manifest pain.
Don’t carry more than your share of the load.
Don’t take direct action.
Don’t aim for the golden glove.
Don’t search for contrast in who is in and who is out.
Put all your eggs on the rap.
Run. Be that vanilla.
Carry your hopes up.
Bank on the empty basket.
Get a cardinal sin.
Be too much of the load.
Take your contrast in who is out and who is in.
Aim it, the resist.
Manifest walking.
Search for walking gloves.

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