Teaching Poetry In A Men’s High Security Prison
I was searched at every edge. I wanted everyone, including me, to be innocent. One inmate squeezed my hand like a letter he’d been hoping for. In the workshop, he read his poem. I applauded. He hugged me. He smelt of stale soap. Leaning in, his stubble sandpapered my softer jaw. He tells me what he did.
He was drunk the night he blacked out, opened his eyes in the kitchen, his wife who wanted divorce, on the floor, dead. I see his wedding ring. I wish I knew her name so I could plant it here.
The next week, the poetry showcase is almost cancelled which causes the inmates to riot. The inmates won. I arrived at the prison for the last time. Flowers placed on all the tables. An inmate read, held himself like his mother’s favorite plant pot. After his poem, everyone applauded, even the guards. The tattooed fists of all those muscular men reached for flowers.
Thrown at men’s feet,
Anaconda red tulips,
Jewels of blood.
by Raymond Antrobus
from Split This Rock Magazine