The Kite’s last session with the girls was eventful. When I (Gigi) arrived, there had already been several alarms pulled that day, which in Rikers-speak means there was a handful of fights. When this happens, a light flashes both inside and outside the facility, guards then gear up with shields to break up the fight. It’s all very dramatic and of course time consuming. I was glad, however, that it wasn’t my girls (as has been the case before) and after much ado I was eventually escorted to the adolescent ward. While on the unit, three more alarms went off—apparently in different wings. The whole place buzzed with activity. Was it a full moon? The weather? Everybody PMS’n in sync? These are the thoughts we threw around. With an alarm sounding, volunteers are on lockdown, too. This came as a relief to my students who usually ask me to stay, “Just one more song?” I bring an ipad with music requests downloaded on Spotify for us listen to while we write. Inmates are only allowed devices that play the radio so it’s a big deal, as they say, to listen to music that’s not being aired. This translates to a lot of Lil Uzi and A- Boogie Wit da Hoodie (don’t ask!).

So, I stayed an hour later and what’s even better is that my assigned guard gets OT=everybody’s happy.

People have asked how our sessions usually go and the answer is—since October when I started going—there really is no consistent usual. Girls come and go, the mood feels different depending on what news or interactions were had that day. I deliver a prompt and for whomever isn’t “feelin it” I’ll either work with them individually on another prompt or encourage them to draw or just talk. I’m not there as a writing instructor alone; my goal is to create a space for them to express themselves creatively and when life happens and you just don’t feel like being creative—then we talk, listen to music or play spades.

So far, no matter the mood, I have left with a few pieces of writing. Here are some of the latest:

(currently-incarcerated student’s work has been taken down, pending department approval)

Where I’m from
By Gonzalez
I’m from the streets of Brooklyn
Lincoln blvd apt 8B
outside you hear screams and cries
because kids fight for their lives
smell the fresh air through the window
while I watch the clouds pass by
I miss the touch of my mother
Playing with my hair until I close my eyes
You know you home when
you smell mommy cooking the rice and beans
Time to eat!


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