Poem For A Friend In Prison


A. D. Winans

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 109 in 2004.

hello Joe
I could handle the name change
but they keep transferring you
to so many different units
that I'm running out of space
in my address book
and now they're shuttling you
from prison to prison
I know this is America
but this is a bit too much
even for a pro like me
all these prisons being built
like factory assembly lines
I mean there's only so many
license plates one can make
makes no sense to me
you ask how I'm doing
which is kind of you
given your own circumstances
I'm confined to my own prison
even if there are no keepers
where life has become a surreal movie
with nothing but bit actors
like those old sing-a-longs
they flashed on the movie screen
when I was a kid
follow the bouncing ball
but I can't and couldn't then
carry a note
it's a hard life brother
on the inside on the outside
part of the problem lies with the
judges who must be poor mathematicians
when it comes to handing out time
and what the fuck is the world coming to
when poets shun writing for e-mail?
the old man down on Market Street
the one with no legs and a skateboard
has more balls than the President
this is a bitch of a poem
not a bitching poem
I know you know the difference
even if the jailer's don't
thirsting after your blood
like a junkie lab technician
stepping on over and around
dead bodies
looking for live spirits to bury
I wish I could tell you there's
light at the end of the tunnel
but there isn't
the new Governor believes
in Capital Punishment
as if death were a spanking
or being sent to bed without supper
I've got to get me a new dictionary
the one I have must have belonged
to Bill Clinton with all
its tortured definitions
the message of America
can't be found
on Mount Rushmore
it's written in blood at the Texas Book Depository
I know this guy who believes
if we reduce the world population
by a third and close our borders
there would be enough food
for everyone in the world
too much breeding he said
but this same man breeds
killer dogs and has five children
and another on the way
it's the kind of shit
that's driving me sane
just when I was getting the
insane part down to perfection
I feel like I'm the lone survivor
standing on the deck of the Titanic
destined to walk the ocean floor
with a fish womb reality
better watch it brother
you might get what
you wish for:
a new trial
a new judge a new jury
but would the outcome
be any different
The D.A. should wear
a black robe a wig and powder his cheeks
bend over and beg forgiveness
what's left of Eliot Ness' old gang
could take on the Wise Guys
outside the courthouse
hell, I might even buy a ticket
mouth a few obscenities
to take the edge off the hype
we are born we die
we spend time in between
be it behind or outside the walls
and the prisons keep getting built
and all I can do about it is write
these "bitching" poems to an audience
who does nothing but bitch
sometimes I think I ' m a retarded
space alien put here by a superior race
you on the inside me on the outside
inner parts of a human computer waiting
to be blinked from the screen