Live Virtual Group Session: 6PM EST March 7th 2022

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

For this session we read an excerpt from City of Incurable Women by Maud Casey, posted below. 

Our prompt was a choice between: “Write about a portrait that you’ve seen. OR “Write about an escape.”

More details will be posted on this session, so check back again!

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Friday March 11th at 12pm EST,  with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

Casey, Maud. City of Incurable Women. 2022. New York: Bellevue Literary Press.

You emerge reluctantly on the photographic plate.

Your hair parted in the middle; long lumpy braids punctuated by thin-ribboned bows. A third bow perches on top of your head, an afterthought. Your flat mouth. Your crumpled chin. One eyebrow interrupted, as if you shaved a line through it to stop its progress. Earrings dangle from your small ears; once, someone thought it was a good idea to adorn you. In this first photograph, you don’t yet know they have a name for your pain or that the stages of hysteria are called, collectively, the passionate attitudes. With great effort, you summon a body for the photographer.

You weren’t the photogenic one. That was Augustine. Still, there is the fortuitous coincidence of your godliness and your hometown of Loudun, famous for its demonic possessions. In particular, Joan of the Angels, mother superior of the Ursuline Order, to whom Saint Joseph appeared after a final rough exorcism. That you walked the same earth as Joan of the Angels is useful; you hear the promise it holds in the way the doctors discuss the she who is you. Serpentine sentences laced with optimism wound into science. With your birth in Loudun, the doctors make sense of your life; with that detail your life becomes a story with a beginning, a middle, and, somewhere up ahead, an end.

In the photograph, you look sideways out of a face a paler white than your blouse, which looks more like a billowy straitjacket, but that comes later. You may not have been the pretty one, but soon you will be known as the escape artist of the city of incurable women; it was said you could rip a straitjacket to pieces with your teeth.

10 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6PM EST March 7th 2022

  1. Life in straitjackets… can’t go here, can’t go there.
    Don’t get close… those microbes may jump upon you!
    The mind follows in the path of the body.
    Closed off from humanity,
    the mind begins to wither and slow down.

    I must tear apart the straitjacket,
    I must rip apart the ties that bind me tight.

    I run to the mountains,
    among the evergreens which dot the hillside.
    Scrambling up the rocky path,
    I reach the top where freedom abounds.
    I breathe in deeply.
    I am free.
    I am liberated from the thoughts which have imprisoned me.
    And with that, my heart beats strongly and a smile forms on my face.


    • al3793

      Your admonition of what happens with the mind finds itself closed off from humanity. The next stanza demonstrates the urgency, I must tear apart the straightjacket. Interestingly we both escape to the same space of solace. Finally, I like your point that maybe it is our thoughts that bind us and managing them is liberating. Andre

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Elizabeth

    Michele, like many of your other pieces you give us straight talk, always infused with hopefulness. And, as you do so many times, you end up in the glory of nature. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth

    After her mother died,
    She collected photos from her mother’s home.
    Most of the pictures were of people she knew,
    But then there was a small handful
    Of photos from the old country,
    Taken before the war.
    She did not recognize anyone.
    She does not know their names or stories.
    She wonders who they were…
    Friends? Relatives?
    Now she will never know.


  4. Terry Hourigan, R.N.

    Bellevue, 18 South, my first time locked on a floor with that view and the crazies. Long before Big Pharma discovered tardive dyskenesia: the special of the day here, every day. Hold on. Just hold on. It’s 4:30, I’m shivering for the key nurse to release me, please. This isn’t the Cuckoo’s Nest.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trisha

    “Write about an escape”

    I floated away with the garbage. That was how it happened. There was no “Great Escape”, no “Long Walk to Freedom”. These are not the metaphors I would use. I’ve been ordered not to speak of it; in the end the only restrictions and sanctions were mine. This is what it cost me to escape, my freedom to ever speak out again without fear. The cost of ever being believed again. In this story, he is Steve McQueen, I am Boba Fett, and Nelson Mandela is God, weeping at the damage his children do to each other, unable to remove the trials, but providing Hope. When I say he is Steve McQueen, I can only say he isn’t the confident swagger Steve McQueen – the Cooler King. He is Ali’s Steve – the one she was only able to talk about after he was gone.

    And when I say that I am Boba Fett – I only mean to say that I stayed silent, still and floated away with the trash in order to escape. I’m the Boba Fett that fell into the Sarlac Pitt, to be digested for a 1,000 years. Presumed dead. Forgotten.


    But one day, soon, I will rise, as sure as dust, and as sharp as teeth through a straight jacket.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. al3793

    Write About an Escape

    There’s no escape from Epic jail
    solitary, confinement
    the sentence longer each day
    longer than the Cramden’s clothesline that reaches from Chauncey Street to Bushwick.
    At least while hanging clothes you might catch the scent of fresh laundry on a warm April breeze
    reimagine, reprieve.
    The only escape is imagination
    A daydream as long as the subway of the English Channel
    filled with any color like the yellows of early spring and the pinks, reds and lavenders of May
    the “sweet, sweet, sweet you’re so sweet” of the Yellow Warbler and the
    “Old Sam Peabody” of the White Throated Sparrow
    the aroma of sage funneling up the seam splitting the cliffs
    wafting down from a fourteener
    warmed being so close to the sun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • michele348

      Imagination… such as wonderful gift…transporting us to places and times our spirit yearns for. Uh-oh, then that darn ‘ole reality sets in.


  7. rita basuray

    Thank you everyone for teaching me. A few days late, but this is what I wrote in response to the word prompt ….

    A portrait I have seen – So, I saw the small portrait of Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Immediately I think of – tight crowds shuffling forward, whispers, her enigmatic smile, the perfect size. I can visualize Da Vinci placing the portrait in the satchel on the side of the donkey he walks besides. What is jarring is, a new theory (backed with data) that this is actually his self-portrait. Oh, the magic now is gone!


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