Featured Palabracitas: Gordon Bernell Charter School

Gordon Bernell Charter School is not your average high school.  It’s a high school with a curriculum and an environment designed specifically to accommodate adult students who haven’t been in school for awhile. This includes inmates at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, recently released inmates in the Bernalillo Community Custody Program as well as any adults who want to get their lives back on track.
Gordon Bernell CS has been offering classes for high school at the BernalilloMetropolitanDetentionCenter since 2009.
Exploring creativity through art and writing has been an important piece of our program since the school’s beginnings. Currently at the MDC campus, Ms. Juli Cobb and Ms. Jessamyn Young facilitate an after school ‘creativity class’ where women participate in a writing workshop and an art studio. Our students hunger for self expression. Between our weekly classes they hold their own workshops, create new forms, and challenge and celebrate each another’s work. They are artists who happen to be inmates and are very excited that La Palabra has invited them to share their work.
We are proud to present these first submissions to La Palabra and hope to bring you more exciting work in the future.


Jessie Young and Juli Cobb


women3You Are Not Forgotten

Tamara Swanson

Like the cartoon Popeye the legacy you left in the street remains
One of your legacies is rain, sleet, snow or a blow to your head—
You hustled for that pipe like Popeye needed strength from the spinach
in his pipe.
You are not forgotten.
When you needed your spinach like Popeye you flew as fast as Superman getting his kryptonite.
You are not forgotten.
Against all odds, like Tupac and Biggie,
your strength as a woman in the game got you paid
And never forgotten.
You made women liked in the hustle, like Popeye made people like spinach.
You are not forgotten.
Your bravery as a woman street dreamer, it was a strong as Popeye’s.
Your memory is like what the men said from the movie ‘Ghostbusters’—
“I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”
You are not forgotten.





Robbi K. Ceniceros

How many times can one be born?
The first time, although I don’t remember
must’ve been quite remarkable for me—
shocking, scary, cold, rude
a foundation for instructions
‘Don’t do that, be this, do that.
Do it right.’
And again at 13,
This time by choice
For me
Important, hopeful, teary eyed
New instructions, different yet the same
‘Don’t do that, be this, do that.’
Hard to do it right.
The third time’s a charm
though not quite there at 38.
What will the next one hold
for me?
A clean slate, clear head, future, hope
Affirmation now rather than instruction
I don’t have to do that
I can be this
I can do that
I will do it right.



women5My Hair

Nicolasa Gonzalez-Ruiz

Like long dusty dirt roads
is how you curve my twisting turning life

First all over my body, then just down my back
and finally perfect all over my head.

You’re beautiful as a statement for Virginas (women)
all over this world

The longer you are the more lustfully enjoyed
by pigs of war that dictate beauty by looks
Like the cover of a book that never gets read
never knowing what truly hides behind

Long bangs of long black hair
I can put you on a display
or wear you down and hide my eyes
even cover my face to disguise who I am

You’ve been pulled, thrown, straightened, even drowned
in dyes, grease, conditioners, and perfumes
to make a perfect performance
and make your actor so proud

Always been complicated by your physical attractiveness
strands of gold, locks of love, hair bold and sold for new and old
like a tree with rings to tell a story
a million years old

One strand can tell you how I lived,
how I’ve grown, and what I’ve smoked

Incriminate me if I said it wasn’t me

But now I’m framed by you a target
of long black beauty horse tailed
from head to shoulders I blare out
show off

I scream loud frustrated and feeling ill
my heart is broke in two
my soul buried in sorrow feeling so low
I hate how you look

My attacker so attracted by your spell
I have to slice and split you off
Because you reminded me of him so
as I look at you tired, dried, and old

Split ends and your beauty I must kill
to start a new life so brand new
If not the poison will kill us both
but it is you my friend that must go

So this is goodbye I’ll miss you so
but so excited for a new you
I can’t wait to see a new life, new look
a new me and you

So here we go “OH NO,” as I shear off
the last load

“OH MY GOSH” It’s a brand new me
plus a little of you
You look like a stranger or that old picture
of Uncle Joe
Remembering your face but your personality
I’ve yet to know

Like being reborn, or a mystery yet to be told
I’ve taken a vow to me, myself and I
to start over with brand new
I’m ready to face this hard life again

With a new look, a new story
and a new road that we both will

twist and turn down once more

Ready friend …. time to go ……




Elizabeth Gade

we come from the north country
the cold country
on the border of another nation
each born into bracing winter winds
our narrow world isolated
insulated with blankets of brittle snow
we learned to breath in that frigid air
learned to swallow the bitterness
carried all the clichés of
dysfunctional family
and failed marriages
out into the world,
strengthened our insides
on all that icy indifference

we were born five years apart
but equal in our long limbs
and matching pale blue eyes
able to see clearly
everything in front of us
everything we did not want out of life
the injustice of being born to our surroundings steeped in ignorance
knowing we were destined for greatness
strong in the mind
you the scholar, the steady one
the stand-in mother, the mentor
me the poet, the unpredictable one
but predictable in my
own wild ways

we are still children in my mind
still growing up at the end
of long dusty dirt roads
sweat of horses drying on our thighs
galloping hard across open fields
untainted by fear of falling
free from the expectations
of mothers and men
still years away from our own
self- imposed attempts of perfection,
of adulthood,
of my brilliant execution of failure
perfect in its own way,
before you were forced to play mediator
kept in limbo between our
self-created family war
the peacekeeper caught
behind enemy lines
white flag extended in vain

we separated at the seams
our hands torn apart like the careless
ripping of paper dolls
the day you went out into the world
paving the way
oh how I envied your freedom
mourned the loss of you
sister friend confidant
the stone, the stability of my childhood
my secret aspiration
I wanted to be when I grew up
the first time I felt left behind
a stranger in my own family

we were lost to each other along the way
you left first but I left farther and longer
hoping to be as brave and bold as you
a better older version of myself
instead I became the victim
of my self-imposed exile
tested the bonds of sisterhood
naïve to how you must have suffered
blood is thicker than water
but left untended
it becomes clotted and congealed
strangling the connection
allowing what we grew up believing
as unbreakable to rust and weaken
oh how we hurt the ones we love most
in our clumsy attempts at life

we are together the best part of childhood
you are what grounds me to this world
the roots that sustain my family tree
the destination I have journeyed
long and hard towards
that place on a map
marked “home”

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