Monthly Archives: February 2007

from our inside-out poet

his poem on prison food was meant to be amusing; this one is much more serious and clearly shows the remorse of a teen offender more than a decade into a long mandatory sentence. thanks to j. for sharing this piece of himself with all of his classmates and for allowing me to share it on this blog.

The Path I Laid

So often as the days go by
You regret the choices made
Life then grabs you by the horns
And pulls you down the path you layed.
What on earth can ease the pain
When you see your decisions were wrong
Who on earth can shoulder the burden
When you realize your dreams are gone.
All your life there’s been one thing
Just one thing in which you sought
And now it forever escapes you
It’s possible, it is, but it’s not.
Your dream is now your history
A family of your own you may never know
And the only pain you feel is loneliness
Knowing your dream will never grow.
And even though you may know
That trouble again you’d never find
So quickly life just speeds away
And leaves you so far behind.
I’ll always watch as days go by
And regret the choices made
Life has grabbed me by the horns
And pushed me down the path I layed.

(written on halloween, 2004)

too thin

reuters reports that five of sixty-nine runway models are being kept off the catwalk at this week’s international designer show in madrid. evidently, their “ratio of body weight to height was so low it was deemed an unhealthy example to the public.”

i’m no expert in the sociology of bodies, but i’m sure that patriarchy and control are part of the story. nevertheless, even male models are today pressured to drop to size zero. in recent years, the boy-waif look has apparently overtaken the buffed and angular male ideal.

i’ve written before about the body mass index and its flaws. this is partly personal (yes, at my current weight and height, i’m officially overweight) and partly scientific. there are far better ways to identify a healthy body weight than the b.m.i. for example, wrestlers have strong incentives to cut weight, so every minnesota grappler now sees a “certified skinfold technician” or undergoes a water displacement test to establish a minimum wrestling weight of at least seven percent body fat.

should the state or particular industries regulate the weight of a class of workers? i’m personally torn on this issue between libertarian (ain’t nobody’s business what i weigh) and communitarian (bad for society as well as bad for the models) impulses. that said, i’m all for placing sensible weight restrictions on children. the state and schools have an expansive license to intervene in the lives of juvenile models and wrestlers who have yet to reach the age of majority. and parental consent is no solution — many parents would sign anything if they thought it gave their kids an edge or a better shot at glory.

but this raises a bigger question, about which much has been written: why aren’t we associating physical beauty with adult bodies? super-skinny models lack the breasts, muscles, and curves associated with adulthood, so i can’t help but see the fashion industry as complicit in sexualizing kids and adolescents. or maybe it is just too darn difficult for high-end designers to deal with the curves and lumps of adult bodies. like placing a coat over the back of a chair, i suppose they can easily drape anything over a stick-like 5’11″ 90-pounder.

as a runner and parent, i tend to emphasize exercise more than diet in discussions with my kids. one sees a marvelous diversity of body types at the average marathon, for example, but every finisher is defensibly “in shape.” i’m still trying to exercise my way out of the post-holiday interim pants, but i doubt that i’m in any immediate danger of hitting size zero.

poetry from inside

i didn’t blog specifically about week 4 of the inside-out class, but perhaps the most memorable moment came when an inside student shared a poem he had written about prison food. he had written the poem some time ago, but our discussion about prison food and the current allegations against the food buyer for oregon prisons gave it renewed relevance. he read it with good humor and our class was amused and impressed. the outside students wanted to share it with their friends and families, so the poet brought in copies for us this week and also gave permission for me to share his poem on this blog. i’ll reproduce it without further commentary; feel free to add your comments below.

Absolutely Horribly Disgustingly Gross

I’ve been eating prison food for 11 years now
Since I was 16. I’ve ate what they serve,
So digustingly gross and nasty.
They say we’re inmates, “It’s what we deserve.”
But how can they feed us this crap
And from which sewer did it dwell
All mushy bruised and wrinkly
Don’t even try to place the smell.
We walk down there every day
Never knowing what we’ll find,
Maybe some of that yard pigeon chicken
That 2 hours later shoots from our behind.
Could you imagine if we took a sample
And sent it to the scientists,
There’d be news channels within a week
Screaming how could we be blind to this?
They’d tell us things that it contained
That would surely blow our mind,
From gizzard guts to lizard nuts
Even DNA mixed throughout their find.
If they really wanted to keep kids from prison
They’d give ‘em a tray of what we eat inside,
That alone would curb their appetites
Of wanting to lead a life of crime.
Be careful when you eat this shit you guys
Its effects you’ll never know,
Over half of what we eat is rotten
And they feed it to us knowing so.

looks like i picked the wrong week to quit smoking …

have you followed the recent stories regarding barack obama’s li’l habit? when i think smoking presidents, i call to mind images of fdr’s jaunty cigarette holder and general eisenhower inhaling four packs a day as he led the allies to victory in wwii.

these days, things are different. why, mr. obama’s smoking may cause greater controversy than his teenage cocaine use. as maureen dowd suggests, smoking makes mr. obama “intriguingly imperfect.” as a non-smoker, i enjoy the image of the commander-in-chief sneaking out by the loading dock to suck down a heater between meetings.

just as former presidents clinton, ford, and reagan, mr. obama won’t be caught smoking around the cameras. joe biden would disapprove, i suppose, but i think most of us like to see a little fallibility in our presidential candidates.

while i would not approve of a glue-sniffing president or a chronic inebriate president, smoking has different connotations. i’d advise mr. obama to avoid the nicotine patches until after the election. a patch-wearing president seems weak and compromised relative to a smoking president. think about it: can you imagine winston churchill chewing nicorette? not during wartime, i’ll bet. nah, winnie went so far as to say, “My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.” here’s hoping our presidential candidates proceed with equal bravado.