Lightning bursting with quick bright yellow flashes,
Lighting the narrow space between stacked metal beds
and the cement floor.
Flashing for an instant, exploding on a head flattened pillow
in a room without a door.
Boxer, twitching and jerking his head uncontrollably,
face still red avoiding an imaginary opponent.
Inhaling and exhaling in short burst,
dodging and bobbing as he tosses and snorts
on strapped springs creaking beneath his bed.
Shadows quickly disappear on a cinder block wall.
The morning breaks down into neon lit hallways
with the sound of shufflin’an rushin’ in single file, to a breakfast
of hard-boiled eggs and a light portion of cereal on half empty trays.
Some with heads bent in silence, picking at their food with plastic spoons,
learning to balance their cockeyed day in Styrofoam bowls.
Others brag about yesterdays with a mixture of false pride
and disguised ignorance beneath dark blue woolen hats.
All remembering last night’s thunder,
all accepting their sentences as another flash in their lives
to re-configure space, and ways to pass time
in the dreadful cadence of ticking seconds, sixty at a time;
that seems to take no short cuts, before it consumes a whole day.
Clipboards carried with names blotted in bold,
checked for attendance, minus how long they have to stay.
How much they owe and how much to pay.
And… how much more without fences of barbed wire
or towers of armed guards when released
with empty pockets with no place to hide;
disgraced in discord, shamed and quarantined
to be labored in paper work and in digital files.
They have to go, their class has begun
on metal swivel seats, they simply just turn around.
Groupthink is in session. They must pass a test without a score.
They have to learn not to feel repressed in poverty anymore.
Not to steal when they are hungry or get angry without training or work.
Surrendered and in retreat,
They will have learned to wipe their nose on the sins of their sleeves.
NOTE: “…Nonviolent offenders are still law breakers, and they will break laws until
they learn their lesson. What I am saying is that we need to do a better job teaching
nonviolent offenders the right lessons. That takes more than prison; it takes more
than slap-on-the-wrist-probation. Drug and alcohol addiction must be broken;
discipline and job skills must be learned. When that can be done better, outside of
expensive prison walls, that is what we should do. Results matter, public safety
matters, taxpayer dollars matter, saving lives and restoring families matter.”
Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr.,
State Supreme Court