I’m buried alive under steel. That’s what it feels like sometimes, literally, not spiritually – an actual pile of steel stacked upon my face and body. Isn’t that something?
Very seldom do I let people inside my deepest thoughts. I actually don’t think most people could handle them – not because they’re vile or anything of the sort. In fact, quite the opposite. They are very intense – soaked into the essence of life. I might think as low as a tiny critter scampering under a rainy canopy in an Amazon forest or as high as the particles inside a Black Hole. My mind is constantly conscious of its surroundings and the existence of all things. I cannot ignore any aspect of it.
And being in this tiny cell does that to me. That may be a surprise to many as they’d probably think this cell would vaporize my senses – my imagination. Quite the contrary. My senses have actually heightened – whereas another’s might have dulled. I have no explanation for this. It’s a strange phenomenon. I dare not cal it natural, strange or unnatural for I do not know what it is. I just know that it is.
I’ve read about every imaginable struggle in the world (and ended up soaking pieces of them into my own being): from Rwanda; dictatorship under Stalin; Haiti; Atlantic Slave trade; Jewish Holocaust; Palestinian oppression. I’ve experienced my own: was born in the ghetto; separated from my parents at a young age; lost my mother to AIDS; got a father lost in drugs; been jumped on and stabbed; sprayed with crowd control pepper gas. Nonetheless, I remain surging forth in life. I have refused to recede any further. I’m mentally sound… I do believe.
A journey took place within myself. A moment of introspection where I tried to analyze my own thoughts. I was on the verge of almost 5 months straight of being contained in a cell for 24 hours a day. In this period of time I may had been out of this tomb of a cell 25-30 times either for a 2-hour visit (twice a month) or a 1-hour recreation period (one day per week). The only other exits from the cell were brief walks to and from the shower (daily), which is only 15 or so feet away, and last for 20-30 minutes. So, to say the least, I’ve been contained pretty tight.
In this time I’ve been housed in several cells and had numerous of neighbors. I’ve lived next to nonchalant persons to outrageous ones; Aryan Brotherhood members to ones who mutilate themselves; radicals to misfits. In some I found dialogue. In others none (even for some who did actually talk). To my surprise, I found more stimulating conversation in the one that mutilates himself than many of the others. This made me realize the diverse nature of one’s psyches. It also made me realize that what’s insane in my world is complete sanity to the next. Just like the people who eat monkeys or spiders, or the people that put discs in their lips, or ones that have 10 wives. How do we gauge what sanity is, especially for customs that have existed long before we have?
I tried to gauge my own sanity, or lack thereof. I began to describe to a friend how I feel at different intervals while in this tiny space. This tomb. This little cave. I felt the need to speak it to life extensively. I feel a very deep relation to places called Third World countries. It could come from when I used to walk barefooted as a youngster because I didn’t like shoes, or when I had to eat mayonnaise sandwiches to not be hungry. Maybe it’s because in a past life I was a slave, a rebel or a peasant. All I know is that I inhale the spirit of places like Cuba, Haiti, Liberia, Venezuela. I can taste the salt water, corn tortillas, campfire smoke, gun powder on my tongue. It’s not depressing to me. It’s quite exhilarating. There’s an urgency – not a complacency in it. There’s a reason to live, not just exist. More and more I become detached from materialistic points of view. I’ve had less and more. I wonder… am I learning the secret to less is more?
I’ve been thrown in an empty cell naked before. I didn’t moan or weep about it. I actually thought of how there are hundreds of thousands of scantily clad wise men/gurus wandering around India (home of enchanting wisdom and spiritual attainment). I’ve been fed loaves of food unfit for human consumption and in that time I thought to myself – do I even know horror?
I’m restricted to such small living quarters. I’m currently in a management cell completely sealed off from all human contact and almost visibility. I’ve seen men desperately seek ways to get from behind these cells. They were breaking. They were smothered. Couldn’t breathe. I could smell their tears and hear their spirit mourning; all hid under grim faces and tattoos that sold fantasies and told lies.
I walk back to my bunk, sit cross-legged and wonder what the Prophet Muhammad did in the cave of Hira circa 609AD. What took place with him was divine. It dawned upon me that so many warriors found enlightenment while posted in caves. Ethiopian nomads (that became known as Rastafarians), Coptic and Buddhist monks; even eagles gain their nobility from lonesome cliffs or branches where only the wind can touch them.
I’ve been through numerous lockdowns and shakedowns – time when our food is fed to us in a paper sacks. I’ve opened up to a cheese sandwich and bologna sandwich. I get lost looking into the brown sack pondering… I bet the socialist rations in Cuba are much better. What are the indigenous people of Peru eating? I wasn’t distraught of the sight of a bag of raisins. I said to myself – I wonder what I could trade this for in Bolivia? A bowl of rice maybe? I can appreciate a Ramen noodle soup. I see the divinity in it. Could I survive like the FARC from Colombia who stay buried in the green trees and jungle terrain fighting for liberation? I stand with DRIVE buried in steel fighting for what I’m supposed to have… Humanity.
Could I be as determined as the poor Venezuelan who once knew tyranny and then stood with the Bolivarian Revolution? Or am I content with a pint of ice cream every week waiting for a needle to weaken my pulse to a thud?
What’s a 5-man extraction team got on a machete at the hands of 5 men polluted with hate from imperialism? How could I complain? I’m eating peanut butter sandwiches in a cage with running water after all. A slave camp nonetheless. I recognize that I’ve got to do something about it.
What prisoners go through is like a rock being smashed against the flesh. But, as Ho Chi Minh said: “Calamity has hardened me and turned my mind to steel.” I make it work for me. When flint hits steel what happens? It sharpens. That’s me.
It’s isolation vs. solitude. Either way, I pull back into myself like a Dogon, Aztec or Celtic generating aura, chakras, third eye, spirit, soul. I spill it all out usually in what’s called poetry. I think I’ve moved beyond that term. I have no peace with a name that describes what I do – outside of maybe visions, manifestos and instructions – as my words are a collective of things.
My words bounce off these walls like bass from stereo speakers – even when only softly spoken – making my adrenaline run. Other sounds vibrate through me that reveal secrets. I come to know the essence of men in the songs they sing, roles they play, the lies they tell which only pulls them closer to the truths they hide.
And I’m listening – wide eyed like the spotted owl perched in the tree. And WHO is the question cause most of us don’t know ourselves.
Eating dry bran flakes with no milk I understand that I’m more than I was and can be better than I am. Cassava, rice and freedom sound a lot better than juicy cancerous burgers and totalitarianism.
But, maybe it’s just me. I’ve come to feel that I’m a very strange individual. Nevertheless I find myself buried in this cave, hungry – not for food, rather beauty at the tips of struggle – excited by it. And amongst all this death, pain, regret, hopelessness, I still find that I’m smiling… undefeated, discovering so much about life all from this little cave of steel that was actually made to suppress my humanity.
Picture that… because I can’t stop!