Haunting Irony

It is not that these women

Number among her friends

She guards her heart fiercely

Discloses very seldom

In an abundance of caution

Holds heartaches, fears and sorrows

Tucked beneath her scrubs

Hidden under loose-smocked shirt

Alongside a banana

Secreted from breakfast

Where she shared a brief exchange

With another early-morning eater

A prison conversation

Of rules, annoyances and transitions

Endless reiterations of

All the carbon-copied discussions

That happen in this place.


Hidden silent and camouflaged

Underneath these superficialities

Lurk whispering spirits

Brushing against her skin

They hint at commonalities

Potential points of intersection

Nexi of connections

Broader, perhaps, or deeper

Than guard idiosyncracies

Inmate furious frivolities

Prison food faux delicacies

Nearly imperceptible beneath

Perpetual cacophony.


Perceptual distortion or

Tricks of a starving soul?

Indistinguishable as a hummingbird’s

Individual flap of wing

From the flurried movement blur

Floats of glimmer of potential

Comaraderie that could develop

Were she not moving on.


Congregating with the host

A thousand other hauntings

She feels the goose-pimpling presence

Of new and sorrowful ghosts

Friendships that might have been


Intimate Strangers

Her ear is now attuned

Voices have become familiar

She can identify

Yells, screams, strident complaints

Laughs or whines by speaker

Echoing night and day

Endlessly around her


Her eyes, even blurred, identify

Individuals by walk or stance

Backs of heads or posture

Unique as fingerprints

Betray their owner at a glance

Known or nameless cohorts

Across a room

Down the hall


Her nose, with every breath

Learns of unwashed bodies

Fetid aura trailed

Behind in the bathroom

Peers’ poor dental hygeine

Furtive smoking habits

Assaults her at the table

At “home,” at “school,” at “work”

Odors, signature specific

Announce their issuer

In advance or retreat


Her brain unwittingly encoded

Unwanted sensory overload

Intimate details of

Strangers with whom she lives

Primitive categorization

Triggered by need to survive

A Friend Visits


Words fly uninhibited

Eased with encouraging nods

Sentences link into stories

Compassionate eyes build bridges

Over gaps of time and distance


Loving care loosens

Tongue thickened with hurt and shame

Intelligent, curious interest

Coaxes cautious heart to crack

Creaking inches open


An hour’s racing minutes

Scant slice of time

Wholly inadequate window

For outpouring flood

Eighteen long months of trauma


Nonetheless mending begins

In fabric rent and shredded

Friendship’s fibers fulled taut

Carefully woven, retied

Thread by tattered thread.

Fickle February

In a full and colorul life

February hung lifeless and grey

Cold and dreary, or rainy

Interminable calendar page

Barrier to spring’s reawakening

Stalled in perpetual predawn


In a bleak, grey colorless year

February surprisingly brightens

Daylight stretches and lengthens

Sunshine breaks through clouds

Days pass without undue hesitation

Winter, perhaps, moves on.

Webs Woven

While she was sleeping

(Or perhaps comatose, unaware)

A web was spun

Undetected despite watchful eyes


Walking through her day

It ensnared her

Though she moved steadfastly on

Tenacious filaments cling

Brush-off resistant

Whispering against her skin

Persistently reminding her

In an intermittent itch-tickle

They linger yet upon her


Strands of connection

Woven in shared survival

Haphazardly draped

Across moments and days

Stick, stray-hair-like

To face, arms and heart


Tenuous waifs of fiber

Weave themselves into her being

Laughs, tears and conversation

She never wanted to own

Deposit gluey residue

No rubbing or scrubbbing will dislodge


She desists then

In the knowledge

Silken threads among treacherous network

Layer textured imprints on her soul

Torn tendrils will be carried

As she makes her way back home.


Morning after morning

She awakens in prison

Following nights’

Oft-disguised sleep

Dreams, real life’s losses

Seep obscurely into

Her smushed lumpy pillow,

Routine flows from her body

Not yet cogitating

This reality unfathomable.

Bunk made, darkly

Folding herself over covers

Gingerly she clambers

Metal rungs down

She fills long hours

Day by tedious day

With diversions created

For some potential return.

In mind-blowing moments

Thought drops in
“I’m in prison!”

Surreality swamps

Brain’s delicate balance.

Survival “inside” requires

Real-life distance

Immeasurable heartache

Held greyly at bay.

The Helper

The helper in her

Core piece of identity

Bludgeoned till bloody and battered

Fearful cringing wraith

Awakened and lifts her head

At call of another’s sorrow

Two roommates in heartache so different

Succumb to heart-rending tears

Falling in powerless pain

Twice she reached out

An ear, her time, an offer:

Come walk with me and talk

She listens and truly hears

Wounds to their disparate hearts

Quietly offers hope, validates exasperation

Each in their divergent paths

Takes some, eschews remainder

Reacts, and acts, impulsive

In ways she would not advise

With sadness she acknowledges

Despite choices self-destructive

Perhaps her proffered ear

Served yet in helpful ways

Encourages wounded helper

Not to retreat, despair

Separately heal herself

And live to try again.

Hope’s Carrot

Hope is dangled

The proverbial carrot

Perpetually out of reach

A date of impending change

A great and trembling unknown


Transition, merciless, looms

Movement incremental, toward freedom

Anxious baby toddles

Tiptoed trepidation

Taken with bated breath


Step by perilous step

Through crossed-out calendar days

She wobbles

Teetering on the brink

Precipice of yawning despair


Whipped-cold by winds of fear

She stumbles on unknown’s debris

Trips over doubt-strewn trail

Hears in February’s intrepid sun

The call to clamber on


Frigid solitary uphill climb

Fraught with terrors old and new

Tests limits of her endurance

Blow spirit’s flame

To feebly flickering ember


Hope’s whisper lights upon her

Sparks ember, blows to flame

Spurs lift to leaden limbs

Tantalizes with silken promise

Tortuous trek will one day end

President’s Day

Wintry cold damp air

Dispels smoldering frustration

Borne in constricted confines

Bred in sauna-like incubation

Each slippery squeaking step

Slides release of tension

Along sore, aching body

And frenetically racing mind

Fine chill mist

Speckles cleansing upon her

Racous crow’s

Caw, caw, caw

Pierces preservative reverie

Squawks of future and freedom

Possible possible possible

Art or Artifice?

Now and then she wonders

What meaning to ascribe

To the format of these verses

As from her, they spring alive


No conscious preplanned notion

Gave rise to their creation

Crafted, as it happed

In thrid person denotation


Trials and tribulations

Spewed forth poetic tales

Journey through Inferno’s circles

Belches pen and ink wails


Of neither how nor why

She is today now certain

She wrote herself as “she”

Oz hiding behind a curtain?


Perhaps, when she began

She was hesitant to own

This experience, or expression

That lessened desire to moan


Elsewise, as amateur

She thought it less literary

To write as “I” or “me”

Or was she just contrary?


Once started, it continued

This mnemonic fiction

Creating useful distance ‘tween self

And life, full of friction


In moments, it appears

Her verses have held meaning

Appeal or universality

From comments she is gleaning


Sometimes now she ponders

What would happen if

She too that leap

Owned all of it


If she wrote as “I”

Blew away the screening mist

What might be lost or gained

In this endeavor toward art

Or is it artifice?