SEEN is a prison portrait and poetry project. But more importantly, it’s a Minnesota portrait and poetry project. Through photography, video, and written word, we share the poignant brilliance of poets and prose writers in Minnesota state prisons, and work together to make the invisible visible, the unheard heard, and the unseen seen. Mass incarceration is dependent upon the ignoring and erasure of the human beings we cage. In collaboration with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW) and the thoughtful, intelligent, humble, and deeply gifted writers on the inside, WAAC challenges and disrupts mass incarceration by clearing the pathways for people behind bars to have their voices heard, faces seen, and humanity recognized–and for people on the outside to reckon with the inhumanity of our country’s mass incarceration mass disaster.
This page is dedicated to Barbara Currin’s work. For more poets and essayists, check out the SEEN page.
We all have stories untold, needed reasons to return home.
Excerpt from “Magical Feet”
Momma’s feet were my morning and nightly alarm clock; they were magical. Faithfully, they awoke me every morning by heavily slapping that warped and swollen dew damaged plywood flooring, echoing loudly in my ears. They were rough, tired, and tough.
As the dust of light to the darkness crept to existence, I could see the shapes and sizes of the speckled blood trail left behind from Momma’s feet. The floor splinters had invaded her tough skin while she completed her chores; still she continued.
The splitting boards allowed spurts of twigs to grow up and intrude our shack but like a lawnmower, Momma would shift her stubborn feet catching and pulling the root of each twig on her path, gripping them tightly between her toes—uplift, yank—while snatching them from their roots.
Excerpt from “Magical Feet”
While sitting on her bedside she’ll yawn like that of a howling coyote; long, sad and soft. I could always hear the beginning of her yawn but never the silent ending to its leaving. Her head would flop backwards, disappearing into the darkness and right as her arms would life from her sides with shivers I would hide beneath the covers.
I would think about the nicknames that the mean children at school would call me, like, “the short kid with the Mom without a head or the short kids with the monster Momma with mummy eyes.”
The first time I saw the darkness take Momma’s head, I wouldn’t go near her for months. I hated the darkness for treating Momma so bad.
I could hear the waste bucket squeal as Momma sat and then she began her morning prayers.
OH LORD, yes LORD, Hallelujah, please bless me with these here chidings. I thank you LORD for all the things and everything O’LORD, for allowing me to create this plentiful and tasteful breakfast that you alone has made available to me and my chillings today O’LORD, and I ask O’LORD that you keep me strong in front of my chidings as it’s been three days for me, not enough for us all O’LORD. LORD, I am not complaining rather repenting for not doing better O’LORD, not accepting better, not preparing better O’LORD. And LORD, please help Bob keep her mouth shut. AMEN!
Then Momma rose and began her day without a head…
Excerpt from Momma
Though everyday is a Mother’s day
is your recognition day.
And though odds were against you
with tough times ahead,
without support and without my Dad.
You committed to a growth to both lead and feed,
and avoided doubtful thoughts
that refused to believe
That this seed
was for a Mother to believe.
This project gives me reason to know that hope is alive.