I’m sitting in the silence, in the dark, in the cold, in my car
Watching the raindrops gather on the telephone wires, glistening in the streetlights, dropping to the cracked brick road in buckets
Bathed in the light of the scattered, broken, some panes missing all together
Of the dark looming structure before me, from which he will emerge, hidden in shadows, creating shadows
Wondering if he really loves me
Because when I pulled up to the house earlier, and realized he weren’t alone, his name next to hers, forever promised in rough grooves
Forever hadn’t worked for him, in precisely the same way forever hadn’t worked for me
Why should it then, now, for us?
And just as I’m losing my breath, a rush of cold air pulls me into his lips, velvet curve, fingertips, woven cotton strings wrapped around my wrists
I won’t make the same mistakes again, whatever they might have been
Everything is wrong
I’m a balloon tied to his wrist
All the ways things could have been
Today I learned how to use a weed wacker and it’s so silly but I feel really proud.
the first time i sat at my desk and listened to a prison inmate speak was sixth grade. i’m not sure what the initiative of such programs are, though i imagine their thinking was somewhere along the lines of “scaring us straight”.
the inmate was a large black man with dreadlocks who wore bright orange and shackles around his ankles. he stood in front of us but always flanked by two large uniformed corrections officers, with several more scattered about the classroom. it was tense. he told us about his crimes and warned us the perils of getting involved with reefer and how horrible prison was, his speech peppered quite generously with swear words that we all found exciting and amusing within the confines of our school which was usually such a stoic and proper place.
i don’t remember a lot of details about his story, his reality seemed so far removed from my own. i was the last kid who needed to be scared straight; an A student who had never tried drugs and hadn’t gone past first base. i was terrified of either and couldn’t even imagine committing a crime. my understanding of his world at that time was very much what i had been taught. people who do wrong are tried and found guilty and given a fair sentence and serve their time. the end, wrap a bow around it.
two years later i once again sat at a desk in front of an inmate. i can’t imagine the thinking behind this experience. she couldn’t have been there to scare us. a small, thin, pretty young woman, she couldn’t have been older than thirty, with a soft voice and no shackles. she wore the same brown shirt and pants and plain white sneakers that i had seen my mother wearing every weekend since i was four years old. she came from the same prison. i didn’t feel the same apprehension i had felt when i listened to the first inmate’s story. my heart slowed while she spoke, instead of quickening. she spoke about her crime and the perils of getting involved with drugs and how hard prison life was. and she spoke about her son. the son she left behind, how desperately she longed to hold him again, how every waking moment she missed him, how crushing her love was in the monotony and drudgery of her routine.
instead of sitting on the edge of my seat and giggling at each errant “fuck” that slipped through her lips, i sank into my seat and silently cried at the back of the room. i didn’t sniffle or wipe my cheeks clean or move at all or make any sound. i just let my tears drop down onto my chest and soak through my shirt and clenched my jaw. by that time my view of the world had changed. i knew all to well and too personally the faults of our justice system, the ripples of pain, the far-reaching repercussions of crime and punishment, how murky the water really was.
when it was time to leave, i waited until everyone else was well on their way out the door and made my way to the front of the room where she stood with the guards who had accompanied her to the school. i stopped in front of her, grabbed her hand and struggled to tell her though tears that were now overwhelming me, that my mother was in prison too and that i understood her pain so well. i told her that i hoped one day she would be with her son again, that i hoped for her to find strength and peace. i told her i would pray for them. she seemed shocked. she said thank you in such a timid way. the officers with her seemed anxious by my stopping to speak with her so i hurried out of the room
i did pray. i still do
Once in awhile
I don’t want to kill myself
I want to kill someone else
sometimes i just can’t care about anything