Zeke Caligiuri is a writer and activist from South Minneapolis. He is the author of This is Where I Am published by University of Minnesota Press, finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. He has won multiple awards through the PEN Prison Writing Contest and is the co-founder of the Stillwater Writer’s Collective, the first all-prisoner created and facilitated collective in the country. He is a contributor to The Sentences That Create Us: Crafting a Writer’s Life in Prison as well as School, Not Jail: How Educators Can Disrupt School Pushout and Mass Incarceration. As an incarcerated writer, his work has been widely published in journals and anthologies for years. He is directly impacted by over two decades of incarceration and now currently does community outreach for the Minnesota Justice Research Center and is helping to build the Re-Enfranchised Coalition, empowering system-impacted people and reinvesting in the humanization of those still stuck within the captivity business. He is an editor and contributor to the upcoming anthology: American Precariat: Parables of Exclusion that will be published in November.
Granny in a Yellow Dress
—Excerpt from This Is Where I Am by Zeke Caligiuri
Sometimes nature just dominates because it is far more savage and indiscriminate than we can prepare for. It was a good fight, and she won huge points for courage, but some forces were just too great. It was time for her to accept that she could have killed bees for hours, but along as that hole lay untouched and out of reaching our dining room, there would always be more bees, more agitated and confused than the others. She had cleared enough space for me to get downstairs and out the door, and that was enough–she had done her job–so I tried to convince her it was time to leave, it was time to spend the rest of the afternoon at her house. But like when I tried to speak with her ten years later about Reagan’s detachment from the poor and lower class, she couldn’t hear anything I was saying. Next thing I knew, she had one of the dining room chairs pressed unto the wall and got up on it, spraying bees that had drifted out of reach. Then she maneuvered the chair just under the chasm of wall where the entire problem was coming from and got back up on the chair, her head two feet from the ceiling. I was still in the living room with the fly swatter, whiffing at the stragglers still trying to hold themselves up with all the poison in the air. Granny reached an arm upwards, exposed and unprotected, and started spraying into the hive. Almost immediately there was a gust of escaping bees that blew into the house to avoid their extermination. There was a cloud of commotion around Granny’s head. No bee stings, though–instead just more Raid in the hole. When one can was empty, she got down off of the chair and started spraying up into the hive again until bees stopped coming into the house. There were still a few, but the main torrent was over. And I was happy she was finally willing to escape to the front yard with me. I was still a little light-headed from the cloud of poison I had been walking around in. Granny didn’t have much of a response. She just said, “That was really something, wasn’t it?” Then she asked me if I was hungry. She said she had Tombstone pizzas in the deep freeze. “They were on special,” she said. As nonchalantly as she disregarded her conquest of the bees, she had shown me what I already felt but didn’t quite understand: that she was one of the invisible forces in the world, protecting me from the harshness of life, intending to protect me until my skin had hardened to armor.
- “How a Collective of Incarcerated Writers Published an Anthology From Prison.” Electric Literature. 16 October 2023.
- “MNJRC 2022 Re-imagining Justice Conference – Zeke Caligiuri – Original piece “Shout Out.” Minnesota Justice Research Center. 21 November 2022.
- “The Lock & The Key.” Carleton College Voice. 2023.