Required to teach where rules are issued in chits, passes, call-outs, call-backs, no bathroom privileges during breaks, I am tangled in the view of razor wire scribbling on the margins.
Who can begin to memorize the shock of bolts buzzed into steel and spine? There must be another gate of entry…
Movement, guards call the march of transfer, no proud posture but relentless daily effort to pull forward
with no one in the bleachers to call out: Hey! That's my son, my brother; he's my dad... Just names reduced to numbers: 06J44, report to the officer's desk.
Shredding of evidence--
guns, drugs, assault, a man's best effort: this the composition we must write.
Randall's narrative is personal, condensed to a payback for allegiance, a gang that left him charged with all its weapons.
Greg outlines a process essay, three full pages on how to make a ziti casserole, its ingredients baked long before the meat sauce starts to simmer on page two. Then comes pasta, boiled in conclusion.
First a father, then a felon, at the age of 19 Greg begins to see the need to organize.
Roberto writes another kind of process: Year 1 of incarceration: visits, phone calls, packages, letters from parents, wife, the children: then Year 2, a slow eroding distance between words, remembrance, and embrace.
Someday, one paragraph predicts, his wife will call: It's been four years now; I'm still young... In static pay-phone calls he hears it: something she wants to tell him.
Revision started as a dull prewriting exercise to find a common focus, men in God's image trying hard to learn their lessons and transcribe themselves into effective sentences.
Here at the edge of town each week they manage to break out and visit for review of what we all rely upon: the heart of the Law, its first requirement, is love.
Take for example Paul, apostle-prisoner who stocked a dungeon cell with psalms, outlived the public lashes, stoning scorn to cross a world's continents and timelines with the news of a redeemed creation.
In mortal storm Paul prayed safekeeping for his Roman captors, ship's crew grounded on an island in the providence of God where Paul, no longer young, bent down to gather firewood, this least of acts
inciting venom and another proof of cure to break the chains of every shipwrecked generation.
(These poems appeared in Saying Grace (1999) from Bellowing Ark Press.)