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A gentle plop as a fish surfaces to take a mosquito from the air nearby, tells me I have reached my destination, I have been coming to this place, this bridge, over a small river almost forgotten by people, since I was a child, some friends and I learned to swim here. Mastering our diving as we grew older, and all of us had a lot of fun doing it. Here later on we learned about fishing, by trial and error on our own part, also by picking the brains of any locals that occasions by. We learned all of the required fisherman’s knots, the different hooks for certain fish, and the never – do’s of fishing. It seemed each older fellow that came along had one to add to our arsenal of secrets.

At some point in our early teens the topics changed from fish, bikes, and skateboards, to girls, cars, and beer. The bridge became our meeting place. A place to talk out our problems, learn from each other, get over whatever stumbling block one of us was impaled upon. Important decisions were made there. Grievances were voiced and settled there, and alone, sitting on the guardrail, staring out at the powerful river, with a beer in one hand and a fishing pole in the other, I single- handedly thought out and solved every problem that has ever plagued man-kind. Well, I may have missed a few. But I was always proud of my decisions made on that cold and lonely concrete seat.

Once my friends and I were setting comfortable in our lives, with our wives and then children coming into the picture, we returned to the bridge. We hung out together and kept up on our families, events at work, and fish always seemed to wiggle it’s way into our conversations. We taught the boys all how to fish, and only one of the girls were interested. She did well. A real quick learner. The kids all learned to swim there as well. Having fun diving from the rocks along the shore.

Later on they practiced from the bridge itself, and swam back and forth across the lazy river. They learned all that we could teach them at the bridge. Always with eagerness.

When our children reached their teens,  my friends and I allowed them their childhood. The adults willingly being banished from the bridge except on Sundays. Those were family days. That was good enough for us. Each having careers and our adult lives to tend to, and so cheerfully gave up the bridge to the next generation. We had started something.

We continued the Sunday tradition in warm and decent weather for a number of years. Our children continuing on with their children. The knowledge gained, the inner peace and clarity of mind. Has been useful beyond imagination for our many families. The power one feels while sitting there, several feet above the enormous black snake that is wreathing past. It may well be that it’s vast wisdom rubs off on a person…

Since passing the bridge on to the kids nearly thirty years ago, I have come here quite a few times on my own, sans fishing pole, usually with beer, to think, my best friends son was killed by a drunk driver. Then I came here to think. It was then that I sobered to the reality, that no matter how hard one tries to protect their children, their families, shit happens. Bad things sometimes, happen to good people, and there’s just not a damn thing anyone can do about it. A harsh fact to come to terms with. It’s just another piece of our all encompassing reality.

My son called me one night about four years ago. He said he had to talk to me at the bridge. Immediately. So we met. He told me his wife been to the dr’s a week ago for a physical and some tests. The Dr. called her to the office today for the results. It was Cancer, we sat, and talked, and cried, and talked some more. The Dr. gave her a year to live. Pancreatic Cancer. She had lasted just ten months. After the funeral I went to the bridge. It was a warm and breezy afternoon, I thought of her, and then I thought of how so many of my close friends and family had passed on over the last few years. After funerals I like to go to the bridge. Say my good-byes, as if those who have just passed are taking their last ride on river that was ingrained within them. It is how I say good-bye. It adds a sense of closure, finality to it.

Nine months ago my own wife passes on. Again I went to the bridge. More questions to ask the mighty river. And the more answers I left with in my head. The bridge has become a symbol in my life. Of people coming, and going, and so many  changes in life, and when all hope seems lost, it is the place to find the answers. There is always some kind of answer…

Today I’ve come here on foot. It is a beautiful spring day. I’ve brought a small cooler of beer, my rod and tackle, and a notebook with a pen. I have many questions. A whole page of them. I ask the river my questions one at a time. I sip beer and wait for the answers to come. As they do, I put them in my book after the appropriate question. These are all things that I have wondered for quite some time. Only one question left. A theoretical one. Maybe, if all those I loved, and died have become part of the river, will I ever see them again? Because their being gone has left such an aching void in me, that I’d do anything to end that pain. Time passes as I drift in a daze. The suns warmth engulfs me. The answer comes as if a calling from beyond. Yes, I too then, must become part of the river. The sun eases my aches. I slip into the water.

Joe Vereen, again, MDOC# 111925.

I forgot some things last time & we have to change things, right? I went to jail in 9/09 on a domestic. It was just an argument & we would have been fine, but, since OJ Simpson, the State of Maine won’t let women drop domestic charges. So here I am. Anyway. I have 3 children, 2 girls & a son (born this February!) On Christmas Eve, the COs told me to call my sister. (I can’t call my kid’s mom, still, cause of my charges.) So I called my sister: my 3 year old daughter, Mackenzie, was diagnosed with cancer. It was in 90% of her spleen. What a mess. She’s okay now, but it was touch & go for a while. I went to court in Bath, my lawyer swore I’d be granted bail (wasn’t). My lawyer urged me to accept a deal, help for me to work things out so that I could contact my kid’s mom – didn’t happen.

The worse piece – I begged my court-appointed lawyer, John Handleman, to help me. My daughter could die! I said. He replied, “If she dies, she dies. You’ll just have to deal with it.” (Remember that, and him, whoever reads this!)

So I took a deal this March: I’m out in 9 months, with 3 years probation. Mackenzie will be getting treatment for the next 2 1/2 years. If my wife is okay with me, loves me, &c? Does anyone know how we can be allowed contact again? Please pray for my daughter & my wife.


– Joe
MDOC# 111925.

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Political Prisoners

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