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Selections from a Prison Journal

9/24... think i'm onto something with this series, i have such energy for them, wanting to twist/slice and write scathing commentary, or deeply personal views. What i like is how it forces the viewer to come in close, spending time looking at words that are difficult but say something... having their nose that close to these garishly bright sections of nude girls, having that intensity, trying to make out words and then make sense out of them. Then of course the over-view, the fact that they're shapes--strange, cut slices, almost deformed yet perfect segments, hinting at the sexual.

...just wanna do it more, don't wanna lose the edge., wish i had the ability to continue... (at some level would rather do this than go back to court) and wonder how they'll change due to the hiatus, will i shift/soften and/or forget how to make the damn things. Not the real question is the intellectual development of the essay, how can i keep it fresh without being involved in daily writing... and then know no matter what i write, it won't have the same freshness as when i'm doing it in situ, for something specif.

... somehow, over these years, i've become a writer-of-sorts, and having strong views wanna express them in ways permanent; i like the idea that ceramics lasts, that the figure is revered as an end in itself, that it's able to be erotic, that even as i can't shock with classic shapes, i can address the issue via words while making the surface color un-worldly/brash... and every once in awhile they transform into something more than i can imagine.

... interestingly, i have to watch myself, having a propensity to 'finish' them, by this i mean modify towards softening the statement, --as in overworking. The original idea, flowing out of frustration at the fact that i feel close but somehow unable to move outside the confines of my own perceptions, is always raw, right at the acceptable edge, but then, given my propensity, and in a bid/desire to continue, the become technically proficient but mannered, --as is the case in art historical development. The very thing i detest, i find i do.

... my next difficulty is these damn bases and size, wanting to make larger sections, --from knee to tits, i'll have to either reduce the scale or make them two-sections, neither the best choice. Generally i don't like a base that's separate, the whole should be whole... but using these slices is problematic, gravity & balance demands stability, some connection to the ground... especially if in two pieces. Having the base format be part of the figure, --as if sliced with the figure, is today's answer... but i'm not so sure it's the best solution. Yellow3's base is separate and larger, still bashed but then it becomes a Base, when what i'm after is a Total. If possible i'd weigh the bottoms but even that won't do with such a small area as half-a-leg, worse half a knee. There's always the sitting figure, using the extended leg as support, but that's tricky and too limited, --i've even considered, (and may well do) a reclining Venus slice, as in on-her-back hips tipped up, laid open... but again i'm limited to kiln size, she'd only be 20 inches long by 12 high, a damn table piece... unless i raise the base up, making the whole shape as if a pedestal. The gravity of sculpture is sexual, dealing with it's only technical.

... these pages looks like the next side-essay, but am sure not, i know this upcoming legal's gonna razz my berries and out of that'll come political statements, culturally correct, politically incorrect... somehow intermingled with aesthetics.

10/20... the only real is how to find the form, --the words will flow, if only a sad social commentary. The figure being so overworked, so reduced to cliché, reduced to the commercial, that i'm dubious about the validity. Still i'm convinced cubistic & expressionistic abstractions are moot, plus i've grown bored with the conceptual, it's either architectural, performance or painterly, the latter being the worst and most common. Sculpture is more tactile than light derived, therefore of a different order than pictures, it's static nature is it's monumental and/or intimate relationship to its viewer and its volumetric proportions are at odds with the subjectiveness of the conceptual school. The first thing that comes amind is it's boundarilessness, the lack of framing edges forces its contours to reveal themselves at complete odds with all other forms. (i suppose it goes without saying that gravity hold it to the earth, those 'relief' pieces refer more to paintings than paintings do themselves) So the problem is form, and has been from the beginning. Of course the humanity of the objects also has function but as a secondary consideration.

It appears the only realm left that offers vitality is the sexual, and the closer it comes to shocking pornography the closer it is to the human, seeing that all other 'draped' figures are used to sell technology. But the difficulty with porn is it too is commercialized, any use of the figure has, therefore, to go beyond the bounds of good taste and salability, speaking to the genetic fires within mankind. Sculpture, like lust, like the tree in the forest that does make a falling sound, exists in spite of it's audience, even when buried for years, sculpture is real in all senses of the term.

And then there's the personal, --as it's nowadays the only rage, artist-as-art, which is yet another cliché. Social criticism's passé as it too has turned to Rap music and sells shoes, what's necessary is finding those spaces that are inmate without feeling jewelry-like or worse, a pet. Using the shapes to delineate and generate awe, raw and uncomfortable, like a broken wound or tumid member. This problem is unending as the speed of the commercial always consumes the fresh, yet it's the only solution, the mood of a sculptural audience being quicker than television.

11/3...postponed again--I'm stressing while telling self not to. Now it's not about the judge or the sentence, it's about living in limbo, even as i don't think it matters I am affected, this illness, a kind of ants-in-the-pants, and the worst, self-inflicted depression. Today's involves self-fears, am i up to freedom, can i keep myself alive, how? I'm weak. My propensity and past looms heavy, i see self and have achieved the anti-hero image, to my own chagrin & determent. Still must admit i'm drawn to it, smoking, drinking, and fucking, i've been insatiable. In memory the strongest are those i don't like, mostly i recall,--vividly, the downside, the out-of-mind, out-of-control, the frustration, anger, fear and immense loneliness, with the 'good' times being those where i was building something, poor but surrounded by friends, working hard. I was not a happy richman, egocentric, aloft, braggartly, self-indulgent and bad tempered... yet there's something in it, it's the exact opposite, as if i'm at extremes and so push my limits, feeling unable to adhere to my ethics i turn them upsidedown. Shy, i'm insecure, i'm not comfortable in social situations, i never feel whole... but when intoxicated i don't care, seem to myself witty, charming, as brilliant as i'd like to be... and the horrid part is i get more reinforcement during those times than when i'm clean. Now that could well be cause i'm more outgoing, more at self-ease, not so serious and therefore more approachable; i suppose nobody wants to be constantly involved with serious... and so they like the charming fool, and i can't resist... feeling so damn needy, and then feel stupid for being so, then the easiest path's to continue, the choice is between isolated and shy or mindless and popular... but in fact it's not, it never was. That analogy's too simple, there were limits & lines, i often passed them losing the very thing i sought, moving into the world of the completely disenfranchised, the only place where everyone's equal... and everyone understands. The problem is it's ugly, it's acceptable ugly/tedious given the fact charming is impossible and the middle is banal, i end feel trapped. An that's too simple, too. In the end i can't put to words. I like to think i've introspected enough, have aged, have found myself somewhat, am more focused and fill-ofied with fear, (this i don't like but it's the truth, fear runs through everything and as much as i detest myself for it, i'm afraid, i don't wanna live in fear but more don't wanna live in prison) given this uncomfortable but realistic choice, given that i do want to live and possibly be self-satisfied, i believe i'm fearful enough to modify, certainly i want it... certainly.

11/22...on prison, the view changes, this because over the years i've been moved from housing units to housing units, my keepers 'trying' different social engineering plans in their bid towards the politically correct or expression of their power. Power unused is power wasted, a maximal axiom herein. To digress/explain, it's common statistical knowledge that incarceration is not a deterrent, --that's just the political rant used to convince a voting population, --an easy target, since there's no opposition to the law & order ticket mentality. Anyway, if it's not a deterrent, what then? Well there was a time, just as i was beginning this sentence when the idea of rehabilitation still held but that's moot, as prisons became political footballs the only conservative solution was to use them as human warehouses. Underlying this concept, incarceration is societal retribution, it allows my keepers to feel they are instruments of this retribution... daily. We are here, not as punishment but for punishment. A sad comment on our times. But/but i fall into the ranting mode.

11/30... so "the winter of our discontent" , a la Steinbeck, --who traveled with a dog, was thinking how describe. This time/place. What words, how usable. To what end. The deal is, i'm too close and of course, by description i've gotta look, it's ugly. The closest is understanding i'm a slave. In fact less than a slave, under the US Constitutions Article 13, i'm in 'involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime'... The diff being that, when in chains, i'm a prisoner but during incarceration a slave. As prisoner i'm held for justice, once convicted i've lost those rights, become chattel... and my humanity becomes the fodder for their instrument-of-retribution, --from the small daily insults, (lack of health care, mechanically reproduced food stuff), to the noisy life-as-an-inanimate-part-number and general callus attitude, the only interest is as an experimental subject to dispel boredom or, worse, anger/frustration. But/but i digress; as it happens a slave is a person who is more attached to their life than their freedom, --as historically captives were given the option, suicide or slavery. Once a slave all decisions are moot, the choice made and your character known, options are invalidated, a slave knows its place, accepts the condition, is less than human, i have become a 'good' house slave, i hardly mind my incarceration having found an inner life. The sad truth, i hardly mind my incarceration.

...this waiting forces insight, both in the fact that i'm but a number and in my anxiety of limbo, being more comfortable with incarceration than the necessary discomfort to gain freedom. That i've no choice in timing is most likely okay, --i too, as a bureaucrat and non-person, would postpone everything, it's only that 'other' me that imagines freedom as different... where with just a moments reflections i understand it's just a difference. Still, saying that, in this state i've 'reduced' my inventory, now living out of a shoe-box, (this the literal fact, not an analogy) and interestingly enough have found i can. Yet under all these rationalizations i recognize my unwillingness to internalize my understanding, This Situation; it's therefore uncomfortable to explain it, --and it's not as it seems, done out of a hesitation to cmplain. I do not complain/explain because i'm not uncomfortable, i've accepted my lot to the degree that my whole system's attuned to this life, even this delay. I'm inured to waiting, --the condition of slavery, no control whatsoever.

... in a wishful Pollyanna mode, (an unnatural outgrowth of The Condition) i've turned, --once again, to Herodotus's Histories, he speaks & entertains, i'm lost in his world with the vacillations of fortune: "which were great once are small today; and those which used to be small were great in time", and of course hubris,--my speciality: "the gods tolerate pride in none but themselves". Here/here, i'm charmed. Plus of course w/pride i've finished yet another hgirl, the hand-to-mouth section which is most peculiar most, girl leg is fired to be packed away tonight. Am adrift in dream nebulous, actually don't 'think' anything, the hours slip away in mindlessness. T'is only these that rumple, by the very act of doing i define, consider & grapple with the present angst and past losses... from a powerless position, it's no damn wonder i'm reluctant to describe, i can hardly feel it when intoxicated by my separation.

12/17...Cold/Dark/Scrunched in darkness, it's 6:00am in/of a chained morning, hard hard-bench-hard, awaiting the van ride, eagerly. Fast, t'was such a rush and rushing ride, up past Golf-Links Road, flashing memories of jonesing in rush hour, 13 yrs ago, and now tucked and shackled, speeding past, the darkness breaking as we up over the hills, it's as a dream, slightly known buildings, the way the curves press my body with its g-force, the signs in the same locations, only the ivy's longer, the trees thicker, and then we're on the Bridge, the cables thick, traffic too, the dim and din of the city-scape, and i recognize some and i recognize all and new construction, new shapes and the cars whizz past as we slosh into the off-ramp and we're in it, we're on my street, we're right at the places, the same places from all those years ago, and i'm elated, excited, the van moves quickly, too quick for smells, but the look is there, my eyes flash, looking/looking/looking, up 9th and only the paint's different, across Market, only the buildings are more crowded, the alleys the same, same names, same folks walking in early light, dirty-wonderful, cornucopia of the city. I'm here and immerced in my past and potential future. Down ramp-ways into the guts of Federalness, more damp/yellow light, the sort that's never tutned off, casting green shadows, we arrive, We Arrive.

...legs numb (excitement or stress?) hands clamped in front, black-boxed and waist chained moved into an elevator smaller than a coffin, 2-old-guard-guys who only want retirement, moving men up/down/up, like some 50's department store man, we're transported up in the center, the very middle of the building is convict proofed, unknown, impossible but real in its darkness and usability, Round maze-like corners into brightness, the official full disclosure of the Bureau, polished floors, walls, tiles and white, cameras point everywhere, each huge/whiote with little blinking eyes, pointing, making beep noises, as my keepers talk to them, "Gate 8 Clear," and we move into other elevators, other cameras. The old set's been replaced, fresh-suited faces, and how strange, they look so common, so average, only the size of their back-arms tells the story, they could be anyone's kid...and are. Separated by court (?) we're railroaded into harshness and stainless steel cages, gray tile floors, sanitary-safe & clean, the cleanliness of repression, of anal fixations, of fear. The door shuts, a cold quiet descends. We have arrived.

...all those years awaiting this, the quiet of the law, its backroomness distilled from all, my heart is still, Mu. Time passes as it always does but my eye-mind remembers, mixes the images of 12-yrs past with those in front, the ride over still fills the after glow of retinal rememberance still overwhelms and of a moment i'm in two time spaces, two emotions, the fear of then and the hope of now, they cancel each other somehow and i am seeing clearly, the room is just another small room, rather bland, the craftsmenship middling, there's dirt in a corner, the sounds coming through the walls are muffled, i'm next to a court room, the very court room i'm about to appear in. Now unchained, calm, in my non-state, non-thought, non-view, i'm not even eager, only ready.

..a youngman appears and unlocks, no more than 7 steps and through a wooden door. High ceiling, carpet, suited men, studied men, benches, tables, the American flag, an old coat rack, papers and a styrofoam cup, woman behind computer, another with her steno, Bill-silver-haired stands with another, and above all my Judge, thin, slightly younger than i, glasses too, her's white with dark neck courd, mine faux tortoise with the same black courd...and we look at each other. A pleasant looking woman, eyes bright, and Bill's warm and protective, holding papers, smiling and shaking my hand, we seem a srt, him and i and this judge, different views of the same world, and i'm pleased, Very.

...after a short discussion of why we're here, i'm administered the oath, smilingly i agree and we begin, the judge and i eye-to-eye, asking if i understand (i do) and if i approve of my lawyer (most certainly) and if i've read the document (many times) and do i realize she has the option of 25 to 40 years (yes your Honor) and will i abide by the court's decision (of course) and then she says it, my sentence is remanded i no longer have life without parole, i am a different man, even as i'm not so sure exactly what sort of man i am, i'm not the same as just minutes ago. I will go home. 12-years and i'm not cold, it's not dark and i'll soon be riding back through the City.

12/18... Without life without, it's funny but it's not really real yet, yet of course it's made a diff in some place i've yet to feel or more likely it'll come upon me as i write/explain and find the words for it. T'was so strange i didn't recognize Thomas at first, i'd guess i was overwhelmed, he looked smaller than i remembered and Bill much larger, --when of course they're much the same. Not wanting to imply inproprity we didn't speak, although he made hand signs i couldn't grasp, and was actually paying more attention to Bill at first, then the room, then the judge. Must say i was taken by her, i suppose out of some judicial respect and of course because she is the one who's gonna all the power, power is enthralling. I was enthralled.

... it was so short i almost missed it, no more than 15-mins and i was back caged, unable to comprehend the actual ramificatyions of what had occurred. More impressive, --because it's played out in my dreamtimes, was passing through my old neighborhood, i was so taken, my head/eyes kept rocking between buildings to catch as much as possible, not even putting words to it, just in a sort of gulping down of visuals. It looks good, looked shabby, looked different and the same, it was all i remember and much more, it was home, it was my home... and i felt in and part of it, happily, joyfully, alively. I knew every sign, the ways the street moved, i even saw my old block, passing it from both ends as we traversed traffic to get onto the bridge... and i knew that short-cut so well... and exactly how much speed was needed to pull into the lane... slipping across the bay. I'm all jazzed up, and it's because of the know, not the unknown, it's because i was there again and again don't have life-without.

... now i suppose it'll be after the new year before we get started on any real work, this new report that's what the judge uses to make her decision. Am sure, cause i now feel up to and completely clear/clean it'll be easy, --well not exactly that, but i have no secrets, noting tho hold back, no reason to protect myself, and i'm far to old to be embarrassed by something that happened, --even when i was the happening factor, 12 yrs ago. The deal will just buck-up and answer, and of course i'll have seen Bill prior to any official visit, in fact am looking forward to seeing him right after the 1st. Y2K & MM in the old system, it was 1952 when i figured out i'd be 57 in 2000, and here it canes and here i am, never in my wildest would anyone have thought prison, especially not like this, not after so long, not with this potential, Happy New Millin...

...yes. It now takes words for me to find reality of a shared sort, even as i sit here, i'm not sure how i feel, --in fact it's that i feel contrary and compound emotions, flitting between them and finding that there's always room for another, even ones of no consequence to whatever it is i'm suppose to be thinking/feeling. And i wonder how others get along, how do we make our reality, as to use emotions would be too fluid, and the facts themselves are always subject to interpretation, i suppose i have to saddle up to my self, seeing how it 'reads' , how i can stand outside and see it, how i can use it to reinforce whatever system i'm thinking i should believe in this day/time. So i sit here now making sense of both yesterday, today and idealized tomorrows. How peculiar.

... i one way i figure everything will change, that nothing i thought last year will matter next, --but then on the other hand, i'm sure about many of the things i've learned, i like and need to make objects, i've become a writer of sorts, i appreciate friendships, my ideas, although not clear, are not shifty/cloudy, they vacillate between purely personal and the artistic, i'm a much narrower person than before but also more expansive. What's not give is how to make the adjustment, how to incorporate the reality of leaving this closed environment and continuing. If i can accept it without pridefullness, as Marcus rejoins, as i've learned to relinquish without fear, i think life would become more stable for me, therefore for all around me. A good goal but i do suspect my goals, they're always so transparent when viewed from a time/distance, another of those mirror metaphors.

... so to flip into the present, this appears to be a perfect time to perfect my here and nowness. on the other hand t'would be okay to drift along, and then there's always drawing, as my eye needs practice and my hand is handy, and March is a long ways down the road. Best then to use this period, as each moment is somehow worked into the scheme of things. I'll need all the schemes i can manage, and the priods too.

12/22... after the elation it's hitting me, this place is a bore, i'm so used to being able to occupy myself, herein it's difficult. But the place's a dream, clean, well lighted good food and quite enough of it, the rooms are large, --larger than mine at T.I., everyone's polite enough, although distant, (i would suppose because we're just passing through and they never get to know anyone, therefore find us 'different'). I'd have to admit i'm pleased, i had dreaded this, remembering it as i was treated in '87, and that was horrid, noisy, loud, dirty and damn uncomfortable. one difference was then i was housed with State cases, and the crowd was more youthful, from a lower social strata, economically challanged i think is the politically correct adjective, while herein it seems more white collar and older, not exactly educated but with some manners. To say i'm pleased is putting it mildly, i'm happy... but then again i'd be so with half as much, given this 2nd chance.

... but i am bored... and must remember it's only a short time/span, this too will pass. What i've done/am doing is mild exercise, getting up early and running through a stretching routine, having coffee (without a cigarette) and making notes for some future writings, then taking a rest/nap as we're locked in from 7:30 until about 9:30 or 10:00, then there's lunch at 11:30 (which is served in the same large common room, --it serves as dining hall, reading room, exercise court, walking track and meeting area), after that i either watch the noon news (what a sorry joke that is, CNN-Stupid) or have another cup... and wait until 12:30 for the library call, which lasts until 2:00 when we're given an hour outside in a small fenced in compound, but at least we can smoke, --which i do. At 3:00 it's back in to be locked up until 4:30 for the next meal, --meals are treats, hot with plenty, green salad and fresh fruit, then another cup and wait until 7: 30 for the library. Here i am, it's 8:30 and in about an hour or less i'll back to the unit to be locked down again at 10:30 until the 6:30 opening and the day begins again... every day. Not too good, not too bad. Ohwell, after all these years i know how to daydream, how to go blank and allow myself respite without feeling guilty. I'd suppose, after a short while i'll make some aquaintainces which will pass the hours... and of course i will receive books, will figure out how to maximize output... and will have some projects for the court. It's okay.

... it's so okay because there was a time i didn't think this would happen, even as i didn't want to admit it, the possibilities looked (and were) thin. I've regained life, and even as i have no real idea what that means just yet, it means much more than i can allow my mind to grasp/grapple & hold. Was remembering how it was when i first came into the system, the first officer who processed me said, "well you're doing 540 months," and try as i might i couldn't divide 12 into 540, it just didn't compute. of course then it did and i guess it's still does, so much so that i'm unable to subtract the idea of living through this. An interesting insight, the past is so connect with a future that it's difficult to be present-tense, and then when i am it's boring... how damn wonderful.

... and strange as it seems, --even to me, i don't feel as if the time's been wasted, no more than it was prior to prison, maybe even less. Not only the drawings and ceramics, but the removal from the disruptions, the daily... (or a different sort of daily) all have allowed my process to narrow/focus and i enjoy myself focused/sharp... more than i did expansive. The shock of those 540 had their effect, now a second kind, the idea of walking out, of grocery stores, of book shops, of cars and kids... of long lunches and a quiet evening... Yeah i'm in shock, i can't image it... yet but will.

... as Marcus Aurelius wrote, "The Universe is change, life is opinion, Accept without pride, relinquish without struggle, to turn against anything that comes to pass is a separation from nature, and the noblest kind of retribution is not to become like your enemy." Here here Marcus... said more like a Buddha than a Caesar... and that's why we love him still. He cuts across the years, my ears hear and i've got it... And on that note it's 9:30 and i'm not bored and it's time for the lock-up. Yes, it's gonna be fine.


Selections from a Prison Journal









Stephen Dubov  82661-011
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1010
Bastrop, Texas  78602