Ice Journals for the Journey

Prisoner #730291 - “Ice Journal for the Journey” entry:
“No matter what they throw at you, you can make a way out of no way. Don’t you ever forget that! You hear me, Son?” 
I remember my Mama whispering those words in my ear to comfort me, . . . So many years ago. . . as she held me close, enfolding me in her arms with a resolute, fierce tenderness.. . . “Yes, Mama. I hear you.” I muttered back then. Her torrent of tears watering my face had christened me, for what I know now would be the last time. I was about to undertake this present and final leg of my life journey. 
No name anymore, just a number - #730291. . . . I remember my Mama’s farewell kiss, sweet; the guard’s then, tentative tug on my arm; my feeling awkward while he shackled me . . . again. . . and led me in my leg-iron anklets shuffling to the van – one that transported me to my new home. In my heart lay empty sorrow. In my mind lies strategy. Settling in my seat, I thought,
I’m gonna be there for a long time, a very long time. . .
Black Dance
Last Chance
Step by Step
Battle Stance
Still no grant
Can you not see
The Black Dance
Prisoner #730291 - “Ice Journal for the Journey” entry: 
Winter Solstice 2011
Striated clouds subtly stir a sharkskin grey vellum-paper sky, its watermark - a peekaboo gold Mayan sun.  
Ascending black crows etch their jumble of invisible aerial script. 
Like clouds and crows, we humans too, must mark our own pace in a jagged, yet steady, never-ending formation.

“I choose to hold on and hold out just as you taught me, dear Mama.                 You are my strength, my rock. I love you. Happy New Year!”

Prisoner #730291 - “Ice Journal for the Journey” entry:
“Day Clean” or Dusk on New Year’s Eve 2012
Bid farewell to the old. Welcome the new.
The world feels clean today.  
The sky above me is full of optimism and hope.
A purple-grey cloud vein hovers 
above dusty orange, shadowy pink  
and muted blue-sky striations. 
A perfect union of winter weariness  
with a yearning for bright springtime  
heralds the sunrise of yet another day!
Impetus Notes: The Geechee People who live on the Sea Islands, along the southern US coast, maintain a culture akin to their West African ancestors. “Day clean” is a Geechee expression. In her book, “God, Dr. Buzzard and The Bolito Man”, Cornelia Walker Bailey writes “day clean happens when the day is new, and the world is made fresh again - just before sunrise…being in that brief instant of time when night clouds are cleared away and the first rays of sun are streaking across the sky.” 

Afro-Brazilians share a similar expression in Portuguese: “Lusco Fusco”, whose meaning also originates in West Africa.  In Brazil, the phrase applies to dawn and dusk phenomena.

Prisoner #730291 - “Ice Journal for the Journey” entry – an elegy:

“Today I received word from the Warden. Thought it might be good news about parole. My Mama is dying. The law will not let me make the journey to her, to see her face one more time, to talk with her face to face - to ask forgiveness and receive her final blessing. . .DAMN this system!                                              
DAMN this place!”
For My Mama, An Elegy. . . 
Ten years since we last saw one another and twenty-five hundred miles away, my Mama lay alone, dying in an West Coast hospice while I sit here, incarcerated, solo, caged in this hell-hole of a NYS Correctional Institution! To never see her again! I cannot be at her side to hold her hand and listen to a final parting gift of her “wise words”. My bad. . .  So, I can only write, because I know this is my tribute to her and of her, my being one with her, and it is altogether beautiful.
“I want to write today, a melody of something I do not comprehend. Yet, I know it is beautiful what will come, Mama. When it comes. Despite living in the lowliest of circumstances for most of your stay on this earth, you’ve continuously cast your eyes skyward, focusing upon the best gifts that life has to offer, love, family, dignity, pride in self and our race. I, too, am learning to continually cast my eyes upward each day where the blue sky and clouds, the white wanderers alternately taunt and inspire me to ponder, to write, to change. . . 
Makes me wonder, “Is God simply change?”
Despite life’s cruel ravages and the tremendous challenges of being locked away with only a small glimpse of open sky above me. I remain steadfast. Why? Because of the things you’ve taught me, Mama. Things you believe in. Important values such as your love of  fairness, respect, courage, hard-work and faith. compassion, beauty, creativity, reading, education, the arts and culture are just a few of those things that have supported me. Remembering has tended to my spirit, kept my mind sane and gives me peace. 
“Remember Me. Re-member Me. Oh, Lord, Re-member Me. . .” I sing. . .  
You stressed honesty, integrity, constancy, getting an education and developing my God-given potential. You always insisted that I remain steadfast in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges and to always put forth a valiant work effort –values I’ve not forgotten. I consider them as your great gifts to me, besides your most important one, giving me life. All of them substantial gifts, which have taken me years to learn and come to accept, to recognize and treasure. 
Even when at times I find myself languishing in feelings of despair and anger, I know your gifts are valuable, meaningful, all of which I cannot thank you enough for – now – in person.
So, this is how I will tell you, through memory, reflection and story, poetic line and metaphor. By putting pen to paper to craft this elegy, a contemporary African “praise poem” telling what I know about you, your life and my experiencing of a Mama’s unfailing love for her son. . . . I thank you for always! 
It IS all about love, you know, the gift of life and feeling something for you that defies explanation. . .
Farewell, Mama. . . Fare Well. I offer you all the adoration in my heart and the hope in my soul. I Love You Forever!  
Your son
Perhaps Mama will feel these, my words about a sojourner winging her way home. . . ;
Prisoner #730291 - “Ice Journal for the Journey” - history and culture musings 
Mid-winter 2012 
From the empyrean of Nut. . .
An unseasonable upstate New York winter’s warmth 
Mirrors the cool season of Africa’s Nile River and Great Rift Valley,
And Ancient Kemet, not Egypt, but KMT - Home. . . .
Impetus Notes: 
“I Know myself. I know myself. I am One With God!” ~ From  "The Ru Pert em Heru" or "Ancient Egyptian Book of The Dead". A more accurate translation is the “Book of Coming Forth by Day”, an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BCE) to around 50 BCE. The original Kemetic name for the text, transliterated ‘rw nw prt m hrw’ is translated as: ‘Book of Coming Forth by Day’. The original language of Kemet or “KMT” is ‘Mdu Ntr’, which uses almost no vowels.
Empyrean or the highest heaven is the domain of “Nut”- the female sky deity who lay down upon her husband, ‘Geb’ -  male earth deity, impregnating him, giving birth to the Cosmos.
Prisoner #730291 - “Ice Journals for the Journey” – final entry a poem:
The Vernal Equinox 2012 
On gilded wings of the morning
I feel myself take flight.
Winging my way, spiraling ever upward
My mind is clear and open.
My heart is pure and true
The spirit soars enfolding within me
Its garment abiding truth
On blessed wings of a new morning
Fueled and fed by the highest Love
Moving to the light, through the clouds vault high above . . .
Illumination . . . Transfiguration
Honor . . . Respect. . . Love
I’m free, Mama. . . I Am Free
Finally Free!

Prisoner #730291 - “Ice Journals for the Journey” entry for posterity, a poem for my Mama and women everywhere for all time . . .  
WomensPeace 2012	
Ho, all ye that thristeth 
Come ye to the waters
Come without money 
Come without price. . . 
The waters are flowing freely have always flown freely 
Cooling, soothing, restful, refreshing, rejuvenating
for these are the waters of light, of life, of love 
Their crystal rushing beckons to us 
sings to us of joy, not despair 
Of peace
 	a quiet, powerful peace
The core of creativity 
of all that exists on the earth 
and in the heavens 
A permeating peace that can only be touched 
when we are still and pay homage to the beauty and greatness within
So, how do we find this wonderful river?
Cease striving 
Acknowledge your thirst, 
whatever that thirst may be and listen to the river’s song.
Gather your bottles, your jars, your pots, your pans, your thermos’, your canteens, 
And come with joyful, willing hearts and committed spirits
Join your sisters and join your brothers down by the riverside 
And like in times before 
gather yourselves together to bring 
the precious, fecund, life giving waters to all of the people
And the waters do flow freely 
There is more than enough for you to nurture  
to sustain 
with whatever vessel you choose to 
pour out the gift of yourself upon others.
Knowing that the river does run freely 
And nothing can ever stop you from 
filling and filling and refilling your vessel, your Self, 
except you
Acknowledge your thirst
Whatever that thirst may be 
and . . .
Come ye to the waters
Come without money
Come without price. . . 
~ FIN ~

Almeta Whitis

“My work evolves from a feeling place into a thinking place and endeavors to touch the heart and the spirit in ways that are common to us all . . . a common ground place that transcends the divisions and separations we create in our minds, which influence our everyday actions, our community and society as a whole.”

For over 25 years, I presented “Make a Change” workshops for men incarcerated in the NYS Correctional System at every level from the ASACTS to Shock Camps. One man who was present at one of my workshops wrote me the following letter of appreciation.

“Dear Almeta: WHAT I LEARNED

The time that we spent together in group was sacred to me and indispensable to my over-all wellbeing. I experienced such a powerful sense of integrating my body, mind, and spirit and a sense of connectedness and belonging to the group. I realized wholeness. I love the way that you invoke spirit through chanting and singing. I deeply needed and enjoyed the opportunity to give voice and to honor that wondrous capacity! My appreciation for my fellow inmates that I shared this afternoon deepened as I discovered and explored the inner light of the spirit of each man present. The most significant exercise for me was the one where members of the group contributed to the evolving story. Although, at first, I was “on the defensive” about my participation, I was struck by the generosity and compassion in every man’s story. In this demanding place, it seems that we are always in the recovery mode. We’re constantly putting up our protective shields in defense of our own self-interests. Rarely do we have occasion to know and to acknowledge one another as the essentially good-hearted human beings we were created to be. This is a revelation that continually enters into my consciousness. It was at the forefront throughout the beautiful hours we spent together in the workshop setting. I feel that we need to seek ways to focus on the spiritual health of the people on this planet. Together and as individuals, we need to recover and regain our humanity; because, in many respects we have lost it. Our earth is in turmoil; and, we could do so much to contribute to its restoration if we became the instruments of healing. Thank you for so compassionately demonstrating the tender art of care giving.”