A Narrative of Captivity: A Take on Youth Imprisonment

I can see picket fences, smiling sun faces

I can feel all traces, the golden tongue laces

Feeling like running races is all I’m good at

Picking paces and anxiously waiting post stamps.

The hood claps

And I wish I could hear it

Who woulda thought confinement would make you death to hearing

Took death to living

Still waiting for an answer

Praying God’s Forgiving

Forgive him

Forgive me

Forgive survival through sinning

Forget the lies they bidded

When they told me I had chance

Facing life in prison

When they told him raise hands

While I’m cuffed in system

When they took my own homie in a PE Lesson

 

When they spit at my family in a language undressed

How could I /forget the fuckin language they pressed.

 

Another hearing where we never ever heard

Still I hear the word through a bird

 

Who sings a song through wood and steel/

 

I know why the caged bird don’t kill

I know what the caged bird knows – REAL

I fly high through the strife of my bill

Praying family sees me for what I am- REAL.

 

Cause Lord knows those power in sure don’t

Making an image outta me for

Struggle they Never had to post

 

Amounts raised as if my family could post

 

Bail

 

I’m in this cell but I’m not the only one living in hell.

 

I’m in this cell trying to maintain relations through mail

Trying to keep my soul alive and make sure my mom stays well

 

But my mind state swells – and I enter different realms.

 

Been in since I was 14, I’m 26 and already done 12.

 

So watch what you’re saying when you speak about my name

Watch which side you’re playing when you enter this game

 

I sit and wonder when I’ll see my family again.

I sit and wonder how fast time can pass and how to deal with a lost past within.

 

But I keep on.

‘Cause no one can take what’s inside this muscle.

What survives this struggle.

What shines through this hustle.

 

You can lock up a body, but you cannot touch this mind

 

And shit can kill-

But it can’t redefine or affect the resurrection of what’s mine

The divine is within-

So even without,

We find a way to make it through homie,

I’ll see you on the outs.

 

Review:

Mary Rowlandson in her Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, describes her experiences as being held captive by Indigenous Native Peoples. She describes the trauma she underwent, while also softly speaking against certain stereotypes of Native Indigenous tribes. Rowlandson in her text depicts fear, a sense of helplessness, but also documents the intimate interactions she witnesses as captive amongst populations she had previously never been as close to. Rowlandson story became a best seller throughout the colonies, aligning with a traditional American tactics to put white endangerment at the forefront of all that’s important in America. When a young black boy gets shot by the police, it means nothing to white America. When a 14-year old Latino boy and his high school friends get sentenced to life without parole in prison, as a minor, it does not face headlines. Yet, when a white, wealthy person from a prominent background, faces the slightest threat to prison, it makes headlines and lawyers are there to rescue.

This poem is dedicated to the thousands of American youth who have been held captive in the American prison system with no proper rescue, and whose stories are never heard. This poem reflects a captivity narrative that audiences might not be so welcoming to hear as they were with Rowlandson, for it reveals the problems within our broken judicial systems that intertwine childhood well-being/ safety, while also addressing broken sentencing laws that create large amounts of disparity amongst our youth, men, and women of color. This poem is written in 1stperson perspective, however I find it important to acknowledge that while this piece was written in 1stperson to depict and imitate the narrative style of Rowlandson, this is not my experience and I will never know what it’s like to go through this. This poem aims to honor the resilience of the youth whose stories this poem attempts to reflect and hopes to shed light on the struggle of surviving freely within a nation of policing and imprisonment.

There are men and women sitting in prison for things they did as a child who are still fighting for their story to be heard, for the justice they deserve. This is for them.

-Angelica Costilla

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The Harp and A Call to Action

Henry Louis Vivioan Derozio’s “The Harp of India,”  uses the illustration of the harp as a means to comment on and explore colonialism and Irish history. The poem reflects Derozio’s personal position of being mixed race through his idealization of the harp’s beauty and his own reflection of his identity. This reflection parallels the symbolism of the harp in that, historically Irish peoples were labeled as uncivilized by the English and held bad reputations. On this note, the Irish people related their experiences and identities to that of the beauty and elegance of this instrument. Derozio is essentially speaking out against the impact English politics, imperialism, and colonialism had on not only the Irish, but the entire world.

Derozio writes:

“Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain;

Thy music once was sweet- who hears it now?”

In these lines the harp is used to symbolize Irish culture; what was, yet what is now impacted by English influence. The harp becomes a political weapon that not only exemplifies grace but serves as a reminder to fight against and speak up against all forms of oppression that destroyed/ tried to destroy what they found to be, such beauty.

Derozio continues to write:

“Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave,

And many a wreath for them did Fame entwine

Of Flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave:

Those hands are cold- but if thy notes divine

May be by mortal wakened once again

Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!”

The ending of this poem proves to be an affirmation for the push for political reform as a means to return to original Irish Culture. Derozio speaks to the past, but provides a call of action to his people in the last line to fight for and maintain a sense of national pride.

-Angelica Costilla

809 Clinton St.

(Inspired by London 1802)

Rise up to the heart that beat on 809 Clinton St.

To the house that gave home to any soul that roamed

In and out of chaos,

Up and Down areas of lost.

These streets know too much of me from you.

Sirens, Street Lights, Concrete Rumbles grow in your rear view.

Rise up to the life that lived in 809 Clinton St.

To the stories it fostered and the love it breathed.

I wonder what happened to the children who played,

Who grew up and grew out, there’s not much else I can say.

There once was a street with a house, that was a home.

Now there’s just a street with drifting memories that touch my heart in the cold.

To walk by is to see a world frozen in time.

Long live the lives whom on 809 Clinton St. would shine.

-Angelica Costilla

 

Love in Twilight

imageWhen I first witnessed the beauty of Théodore Gericault’s French painting “Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct,” the first emotion I began to feel was love in twilight. The painting contrasts modes of darkness through the entering dark blue clouds as a bright light of sun begins to set, shining over the existence and relations between what appears to be one man and one woman. In this painting, one will find softness amongst rocky grounds, green amongst high mossy bridges, and heightening structures (trees, buildings, etc.) amongst low settling figures.  The painting is formatted in a way that appears almost as if given a peek into a secret world. It is angled off to the side, so that the viewer of the painting not only receives glance of the two people talking but also of the soft light in which shadows upon them and their atmosphere.

I feel as though “Love” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge can be greatly reflected within Gericault’s painting. The poem begins by describing a place of ruins with the speaker of the poem residing on rocks in which overlook moon lit darkness. While the painting isn’t necessarily lit in the moonlight yet, it represents a transitioning moment to the love and atmosphere Coleridge describes. In the poem, the speaker is having a conversation with his lover, relaying to her a story about a knight who experiences heart break. The knight remains heart broken until her saves a woman who in turn happens to fall in love with him.

Coleridge writes,

“’Twas partly love, and partly fear,

And partly ’twas a bashful art,

That I might rather feel, than see,

The swelling of her heart.”

This “love,” Coleridge speaks of is found in fear, in between rocky matters, and along tall mossy stakes, which is exactly what is captured in the painting.

-Angelica Costilla

 

 

Poetry is Everywhere

At first glance, Maiden’s heavy metal performance of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” might not appear to belong in the same category as romantic poetry. This common perception can be directly related to the question of what our society, our experiences, and our minds consider to be a power of literature. Connecting to what we learned earlier semester, I argue that literature is not bound by text and consists of music, paintings, art, etc. On that note, I feel as though anything in this world can be interpreted through/ as poetry. It is simply up to the reader and receiver of such literature to utilize their own experiences to decide in what ways such poetry lives.

Romantic literature was once the face of societal rejection and absurdity. The rise of romantic literature to readers was seen as out of this world and did not appeal to the society to which it was birthed to. This same societal reaction relates to how many audiences interpreted Rock music/ Rock culture when it emerged during the 1950s. Both groundbreaking forms of literature of power utilized their art form as a way to make waves of resistance, resilience, and revolution. Generations change, and with that change comes a shift in our we perceive, accept, and generate different cultures and forms of information.

When listening to Maiden’s version of the poem, I still feel the poem’s essence, yet I am moved in a different way due to the form, style, and intensity to which it is delivered. Both Coleridge’s poem and Maiden’s song utilize rhyme schemes and repetitive syllables as a means to engage the audience and project emotion. Both works stick to similar themes regarding spirituality through connection with the natural worlds. Essentially the song moves as a retelling of Coleridge’s poem in a modern take. The song sings, “The albatross begins with its vengeance/ A terrible curse a thirst has begun/ His shipmate to blame…” continuing the original story of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

-Angelica Costilla-Mancha

Appeal and Challenge: The Fight for Agency and Critique

The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano provides an alternative take on captivity narratives through the detailing of his own story as a former slave and the agency he assigns himself and continues to thrive upon. On page 92, Equiano writes:

“Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can rarely dwell. Hope never comes
That come to all, but torture without end
Still urges.” (92)

Milton’s Paradise Lost is known for satirizing the corruption, wickedness, and evils of society through a lense of exaggeration that calls upon the ridiculous nature of certain systems we have historically lived by. One might consider Milton’s attempts to portray these evils as epic, overwhelming, and unrealistic. However, with Equiano pointing to this passage that greatly reflects the essence of Paradise Lost, he is not only appealing to specific European intellectuals, but he is also finding a gateway to critique them. He introduces experiences of “sorrow,” and restlessness, setting up a clear divide between the speaker and “all”- that is the “all” that is commonly acknowledged. He describes a “torture without end,” even for an intellectual who is extremely devoted to the Christian faith and teachings.

In his text, Equiano is not a figure in another person’s narrative. Rather, he is the entire narrative. He weaves his storyline in a way that acknowledges his audience’s readership and still challenges the hypocrisy in which lies in the hearts, minds, and life sytles of white Christians. In this specific quote, Equiano is nothing short of brave and everything that’s courageous. Borrowing from Milton’s Paradise Lost, he questions how individuals can speak of hell as if it is a grave, distant concept, when in fact, the fate he faces and the reality he lives, is far much more worse than any hell to be thought of.

-Angelica Costilla-Mancha

Pope the Poet

This satirical print against Pope displays the backlash and hatred Pope received after publishing The Dunciad (1729). The image is a highly creative, but also disturbing reflection of what happens when one speaks against and parodies common rule/ popular following. In this image, Pope is depicted as a rat-like mutation hunched over as a result of the production variorumof his literature. While this image might be seen as cruel, I feel as though in a distinct way, Pope would have appreciated the creativity and extent to which this piece of literature (the image) was made.

In The Dunciad, Pope created a work which mocks the writers, critics, and readers whom he felt were simply dull, tasteless, irrelevant and corrupt. The goal of his piece was to shine light on the need for more powerful, meaningful literature. The poem is a shot at all those whom contribute to the production and release of such type of literature, forcing them to realize how ridiculousness their work truly is.

In The Dunciad, Pope writes:

“Whate’er the talents, or howe’er design’d,
We hang one jingling padlock on the mind:
A Poet the first day, he dips his quill;
And what the last? a very Poet still.
Pity! the charm works only in our wall, [165]”

Here Pope makes bold assertion that no matter what the talents of a person are, they will always be a poet and that in and of itself is of extreme importance. Therefore no words against him shall prosper but only be reflected under light at the end of the day.

 

-Angelica Costilla-Mancha

Swift’s Mirror of Hypocrisy

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a piece of work that functions tirelessly as a critique of the Enlightenment period. He uses satire and parody as a means to illuminate the faults of the captivity and travel narratives that rose as genres at the time. With Bacon’s “New Atlantis,” the projection of a perfect Utopian society allowed for individuals to imagine the possibility of life and space where all things were perfect and everything ran smoothly. While this is a great idea, one that I feel all of us wish were true, Swift not only laughs at the presentation of this idea amongst imperialism, genocide, and booming racism, but he also forces the reader to meet head to head with its’ irony.

In chapter three of part one, he writes:
“I sworn and subscribed to the Articles with great Cheerfulness and Contentment, although some of them were not so honorable as I could have wished;…… Whereupon my Chains were immediately unlocked, and I was at full liberty.” (44)

Swift here presents a passive aggressive tone that strikingly targets the hypocrisy found within Bacon’s suggested Utopian society during a time where freedom for all is not seen as that important than the freedom of some. Swift juxtaposes the words “chains” and “liberty” in the same sentence, sarcastically alluding to the impossibility of being ultimately free while still bound by the chains of authorial oppression. He capitalizes “Cheerfulness” and “Contentment” as a means to heighten these proposals with the purpose of bringing them down to sheer reality. Swift wants the readers to recognize that while these ideas are high and mighty; while you may be seen as an excellent person for proposing these ideas- with no execution in the real world, these ideas mean nothing. Treat here is mirroring reality amongst the reflection of hypocrisy.

-Angelica Costilla

Facebook After Hours: Apess Attempt to Educate

A Facebook Friend of William Apess posts on their  Facebook wall what they consider a highly intellectual post at 8:53pm on a Wednesday in response to today’s political climate. William Apess’ friend, (a colleague he had for a few classes at a pre-dominantly upper class university) Bob writes:

“May God instill the same strength and might in the young children locked in cages as He did in the brave Mary Rowlandson. Although their fights may be quite different, Mary Rowlandson is an outstanding image of what a survivor of captivity and maintainer of Grace looks like.
I pray they find peace in the same ways Mary was able to do so while still holding a respectable image of the Indian Peoples.”

William Apess sees the post nearly minutes after his distant Facebook friend debuts his words. He is unable to simply look past it and keep scrolling. For a moment he is triggered, and decides to “quickly” respond in a respectable yet firm manner, here is what he writes:

Comment by William Apess at 12:02am

“Hello dear “friend” of mine, if that is even what you could still call yourself after the disgusting, ridiculous comparison you have made of a colonizer to innocent indigenous children to this land. While it is not my job to educate you on the history of this country, as the good person I am, I find it in my heart to pose a few learning questions for you today, in hopes you will re-evaluate the nature of your post. Is context not the most important thing to consider when making such bold posts? When discussing the “fight” of Rowlandson, should you not also discuss the fight of countless indigenous peoples who died, suffered at the hands of starvation, and whose women were raped and abandoned all because of a Puritan religion in which justified colonizers acts in doing so?

I pray to God too. I pray that in an era of foreseeable revolution, privileged men on Facebook will look to other revolutionary figures to inspire change, rather than a woman who was most notable for not detailing indigenous people as drunks.

If you have any questions, please feel free to not message me as it is not my job to educate people on their failure to acknowledge the ways in which they continue to disrespect the history and lives of the indigenous people of this land.”

 

-Angelica Costilla-Mancha

What Was Then, Is Still Now: A City Upon a Hill of Oppression

The author of last year’s blog post spoke on how today’s American public is generally ignorant of the original “fantasy of religious superiority and human inequality,” inspired by Winthrop’s “City Upon the Hill.” However, I feel as though subconsciously, it is exactly those ideas that dangerously fill many Americans with pride when imagining their beloved, “City Upon a Hill.”

In her first remove of, A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, Mary Rowlandson writes:

“It was a solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood, some here and some there, like a company of sheep torn by wolves.”

These opening words illustrate a Native attack on Lancaster, referring to Natives as wolves, and puritans as sheep. Rowlandson’s choice of simile is biblical. Followers of Jesus were typically referred to as innocent flock of sheep. With this immediate biblical framework, Rowlandson creates dichotomy and opposition- something I’d like to argue has been used over time as propaganda to support the oppression of Natives and people of color.

While Rowlandson’s narrative may have been a soft weapon against stereotypes of Native, Indigenous tribes with the ways in which her narrative had the power to move even present day students into feeling empathy for her, this does not take away from the amount of power her narrative has in uplifting westernized superiority over Native, Indigenous culture. Rowlandson describes her observations of the Algonquin culture, referring to many of the men and women using (the then) familial terms such as “papoose.” Through her intimate connections with Native Mothers and the community she becomes a part of, readers are left pondering what Rowlandson really thought of the Algonquin people. For a split second, an educated reader provided with the context of her narrative, is able to perceive Native American culture in a different light; one in which humanizes the differences in their culture through the ways in which they are connected to concepts of family, love, and protection.

However, in most high school public history courses, this version of history is not emphasized nor explored. Furthermore, although Rowlandson denies some stereotypes, such as all Native men being drunks, her narrative still promotes the idea that her captivity was an act of God, dismissing the circumstances that had to have been met in order for the Algonquin people, natives of the land, to retaliate in such a way.  Rowlandson and her story, a best seller throughout all the colonies, promotes superior Puritan ideals and beliefs over the mass killings of Native Americans whom experienced several other devastating forms of oppression such as starvation, separation, etc. In America, the world’s “melting pot,” I can still see the ways in which Christianity is held up as a dominant religion, even beside the fact that westernized religion has led to the persecution of countless souls throughout American history. In our nation’s flag salute, we are identified as “one nation, under God,” not Budha, not Allah, or so forth. With nearly all Presidents citing Winthrop’s “City Upon a Hill,” this goes to show that no matter how progressive we like to think our nation has become, it will always be affected by how deeply rooted its’ history is in narratives such as this, where history is one sided, easily consumed and dependent upon the oppression of others.

-By Angelica Costilla-Mancha