One Thing He Misses, from Life in a Prison

He doesn’t miss sameness.

No, not the sameness.

The sameness of lapping the gravel track

in ellipses to nowhere for 3,000 days,

the same treeless yard, the same bleachers, faceless,

the same conversation each day and each week.


Not frigid concrete and pseudo brick walls,

the cinder block shelves in a make-shift greenhouse.

The sameness of travel in any direction

beyond which he couldn’t go—one quarter mile.

The same light blue shirts and dark navy pants.

(God help him, he’ll never wear navy again.)


The sameness of brown and white food, mashed potatoes

and rice that settle like stone in his heart,

or the same thread of talk he heard at each meal:

“I bet all the salaries of staff in this room

add up to a million bucks. Wanna bet?”

The strata of people, from inmate to staff,

a sandwich of sediment forming black coal.


Nor the constant barrage of insipid talk

he couldn’t escape any more than the walls,

the hundreds of humans hardened to stone,

shackled in bunks, in cells, and in sweat,

themselves a wall of humiliation.

The blank stone and brick,

the mortar of real people’s lives

slow and steadily chipping away.


Because of his prison life, what did he miss?

A treasure, the nugget, the deep vein of gold

of nearly a decade subtracted from life.





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