Hallowed Halls and Warping Walls

five foot two

towers

from the height

of academic elitism

diminutive doctorate

commands respect

in determined strides

conjures courtesy

among vociferous

verbalizations

walks tall

down storied

hallways myriad

five foot two

cowers

(head up, trembling)

traversing

cinderblock

walk of shame

compacted between

key-jangling escort

deprecatory

leering jumpsuited

audience

lining the halls

visual assaults

steadfastly ignored

five foot two

re-empowers

self

with knowledge

persistence

and adamant

re-integration

five foot two

sours

in the advent

of memory

video clips

replaying endless loops

grey concrete squeezing

while the eyes

following

revel in their fucking

over her silent

screamed objections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waterways

she had plummeted

swept under

Acheron’s raging currents

drowning in the depths

she stagnated

in foul brackish pools

toxins pervading every pore

she slithered

on scaled snakebelly

from immersion in noxious lagoon

crawled through mud and muck

briar patch scratched

stench of her debasement

malodorous effluvium

perpetual leaching

skin and soul

keening for renewal

she stumbled upon

crystalline pools

burbling

springs of amnesty

stripped to the bone

she tiptoed trepidatious

into waters of absolution

parched dermis

quenched in soothing amity

reconstitutes

whole

she stands erect

poised

to dive again

into rivers of life

Cocooning

deemed creepy-crawly

she was confined

in no self-spun silk

chrysalis

captive

she deliquesced

consuming herself

until she is

no longer

more than

mucilaginous goo

you will transform

they told her

you will fly free

beautiful to behold

inside her shell

pulsating gunk and muck

all she knows

is insensate ooze

 

one morning

she twitches

involuntarily

sludge coalesces

in directable movement

pounding the horns

of her head

rhythmic

repeating

she cracks the shell

shivers in the air

while slime

dribbles off

she thrusts forward

seared in dawn

unfurls

Independence Days

hotdogs and beer

pool parties and fireworks

sweaty summer afternoons

nights steamy or chilled

 

incongruous connections

to freedom

 

hotdogs do not

equalize privilege

among citizens

just stomaches

 

beer certifies

the ludicrosity

of belief

in inalienable rights

 

striving for our birthrights

of upwardly mobile

hearty grain fed

prosperous equality

we spark

brilliant and fiery

pop pop pop

 

your sons and daughters

sisters and brothers

lovers and frenemies

crane their necks

behind barred windows

contorting for a glimpse

of light

glittery sparkling

 

they eat hotdogs

boiled and dried out

tripling as holiday fare

haute cuisine

nutrition

multiple bangs

for your buck

 

they dare not

fantasize

of cool pool dips

while showering

publicly

hurriedly

naked and afraid

 

they swagger

with bravado

walking gauntlets

pretending

dustups, scuffles

tortuous assault

do not scar

when they alight

wayward sparks

night after night

Piper, if I May Have a Word?

 

before prison

I watched your show

binge watched even

who didn’t?

in the furor

was common ground

among disparate selves

racy and fast paced

it engendered empathy

for a diverse gang

national phenomenon

it captivated us all

 

black is a little black dress

versatile, all purpose or sexy

what does orange

have to do with that?

then there was real prison

I wore orange

for a year

jumpsuit ill suited

for feminine curves

or a sense of humanity

I didn’t meet hot women

(no one is hot in orange sack cloth

and ashes of abject humiliation)

or have dance parties

or great sex (or any sex)

my skin withered

from lack of affection

 

black is trendy and chic

slimming, for daywear and night

true, we wore orange 24/7

and I did lose weight

 

Did you really wear orange at all?

Feds wear khaki scrubs

those are haute couture

compared to orange

androgynous

burnt smelling jumpsuits

everyone wants to wear black

it’s sexy in a bra

all business in a pencil skirt

orange is stigma in shapeless coveralls

no one bargain hunts those

 

in real prison

I was always scared

I cried (a lot)

I was so alone

I was miserable

I felt guilty if

I accidentally laughed

you referenced the misery

almost in an aside

unnecessary eyeliner on a model

it was the carb-laden

diet of my existence

 

I thought about you

and your story

in harsh reality

and how we might

have common ground

middle class professionals

pre-number

so I read your book

searching for understanding

validation of experience

my search for affirmation

abandoned me

in a bittersweet desert

destined to find myself

 

I felt your empathy

desire not to judge

your compatriots

I appreciated that

I was impressed

by those sentiments

I scavenged what I could

well-schooled in prison survival

take what serves me

pretend I don’t see the rest

the disconnect arose

in the fun

you described

how you ran and shouted

like those women

I couldn’t stand

who acted like prison

was a street gang

dorm

who relished

the release from responsibility

that incarceration wrought

celebration of orange

is the color of abandonment

dereliction of duty

abdication of obligation

 

I longed for

my responsibilities

I fought the urge to

Bitch-slap women

who said jail

was a vacation

but then I would

have been sinking

to the level expected

of a felon

black could be the darkness

hidden inside us all

that we secret

even from ourselves

 

 

in my despair

I thought your survival

could light a torch

in the darkness

orange is not

the color of my torch

in black I hide

from demons and demonizing

 orange is neon shouting

my greatest private shame

 

I keep trying to understand

the title to your story

so many women

go to prison

were you capturing

the ubiquity

of our captivity?

 

I know you are a warrior

speaking out against the system

I just don’t understand

how you colored

your experience

 

I must have gone

to prison

with a different

set of crayons

 

Cliffhanger

she stepped off a cliff

admittedly

but it was not

a hellbound leap

no mayhem wreaking Bonnie

guntoting with incorrigible Clyde

nor was it a defiant act

of faux-glorious self-destruction

circa Thelma and Louise

it was apropos of Looney Tunes

Wile E Coyote debacle

chasing roadrunner shaped winds

 

educated, she is adjudicated

nobody’s fool

her missteps, limbs flailing

harshly judged

and that cliff

sharply outlined

in the chalk of impaled futures

overhangs

overlies

overshadows

 

Papered Revolutions

there was always a right way

to put the toilet paper

on the holder

hanging down over the top

not under, out of reach

flat against the wall

 

in younger days

she expounded on this rule

taught children

corrected

once, twice

a dozen times

 

in time she mellowed

abandoned lectures

explications

silently rehung

wayward rolls as needed

consternation flushed

automatically as tissue squares

 

then came the months

of paper carrying

her toilet roll

everpresent companion

wiping mouth and eyes

and parts no longer private

 

they joked, inside

whether they would

remember to forget

to carry rolls around

from eating to bedside

and toilet bound

 

she did indeed

desist

in toilet paper toting

simultaneously

dumping

obsessive roll-reversal

 

(artist: unknown)

Juxtapositions

on this journey

of bumps, lumps and bruises

she collides, haphazard

against masses

anonymous

or intimate

for moments

or months

there are faces

with no names

names with no faces

they are the nameless

faceless

numbers

shared trepidations

conjunctive catastrophes

assaultive looks

distrustful assessments

reluctant camaraderie

laughs erupting

incongruous

paths converge

merge

diverge

in the moving on

she carries

internally tattooed

crumbs

from all their souls

 

Mirroring

windows watch

from under water

they refract murky offing

obscured under tranquility

in flat-paned blankness

future hide and seeks

dark-eyed hollows

haunt retrospectively

among the polished smoothings

swim shards of apocalyptic

non-apologetic apoplectic

dissembled anarchy

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

…already in progress

 

remember that antsiness?

hopping one-footed

from impatience

to exasperation

 

the “BREAKING NEWS”

ticker-taped drama

interrupting

your favorite show

 

interminable

 

in childhoods’ eyes

worthless irrelevant

waste of time

impingement

on your levity

 

the voice of

Peanutted adults

“wah, wah wah, wah wah”ing

until the
FINALLY

stoically intoned

sweet release

 

the discovery

discombobulating

 

of plot twists

irretrievably lost

(the days before

instant perpetual

electronic gratification)

favorite characters

now played by

different actors

and you missed

the announcement

 

now imagine

 

instead of a show

that was your LIFE

 

running on

while you are gone

plots reversed

characters

mystappeared

and NO ONE

has a DVR

 

and tell me again

how incarceration

rehabilitates