I was incarcerated from October 1993 to June 2004 and during that time kept extensive journals. For part of that time, I maintained two separate sets of books, one recording my daily activities in prosaic detail and the other recording my “poetic” thoughts and song lyric ideas, for better and worse. My Sin and Slumber journal, filled between 31 December 1995 and 30 September 1996 at Marion Correctional Institution, fits into the latter category. For context’s sake: I began my involvement in the prison’s Ministry of Theatre in early 1996, with a small role singing bass in a Martin Petersime arrangement of the song “No Bird Sang” with a shepherd quartet in an Easter play called The Insignificants. Shortly after that, my friend Alan Yurko (who’d talked me into getting involved) went home and I was pressed into taking over his role as play co-writer. Martin and I spent most of the summer and fall of 1996 writing the script and songs for A Possum Gulch Christmas, a musical set in an Old Western saloon — and because I knew the work inside and out by the time auditions rolled around, director (and chaplain) Hugh J. Daley insisted on casting me in the lead role of preacher Isaiah Hawkins, which would in turn get me submerged in the Ministry of Theater for the next five or six years and change my life significantly. But when I began filling in my Sin and Slumber journal on the last day of 1995, I was still mostly shy and reclusive, avoiding involvement with my fellow inmates as much as possible, vehemently against any and all religious programming, and I’d never have imagined myself becoming a small scale playwright, songsmith and stage star, let alone in a chapel.
Me as a shepherd in The Insignificants (1995) – photo by Hugh J. Daley
The day I began Sin and Slumber, I’d just learned that two of my dearest acquaintances from before prison, Kendale Reynolds and Sam Jordan, had died of AIDS (or AIDS-related complications). This was especially shocking because the last I’d seen them, in 1993, they seemed to be in perfect health and I had no idea they were HIV+. The first poem in the journal is about them. Maybe six months later, I learned that another friend, Timothy White, had also died. These deaths, as well as girlfriend issues I won’t go into yet, played a large role in my evolving relationships with prison, others, myself and the world.
So that’s my introduction to Sin and Slumber. I’ve posted a few poems/fragments from it on my blog in the past (Maiku, for example), albeit with less context. But even though I find a lot of the writing in it embarrassingly inadequate (to be kind), I’ve decided to post Sin and Slumber in its entirety on this blog. Depending on how I feel after the fact, I may post more of my old journals online.