Today's poem I wrote as a rough draft back in April. I asked for comments from my poet friends and we decided that the ending of that draft just did not work, although several lines were worth keeping in. I have been working on the revision to this poem nearly all summer in fits and starts. I would have an inspiration and it would go nowhere or make the rest of the work ackward. So, after much reflection and many crossed out pieces of paper here is the poem in its next incarnation. I decided to change the title and to divide it into sections, which allows it to flow smoothly.
. . . in trying to heal the wound that never heals,
lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man’s work
I know about the strip searches after our visits
as if our presence left you with a piece of humanity
that had to be removed.
I know how you kept to yourself, reading
praying, adrift in darkness,
to avoid answering dangerous questions.
I know you were embarrassed by the number of letters
arriving daily, missives from those who loved and missed you,
while others around you were often ignored.
I know on the nights you could not phone, how you asked
God to send a message that you were safe
so we would sleep quietly, dreamlessly.
I know you saved apples and crackers, stockpiled
them like treasures, to improvise pie and a slice
of home on a Sunday afternoon.
I know how you learned that trust
was a word divided
between tru(e) and us.
On the day you returned, we stood outside in the sleety rain,
nothing but a cartoon umbrella to protect us,
and we waited for the gates to open.
We watched you approach in too-big clothes
carrying the remnants of your life
in a transparent bag.
There were no secrets that day.
And after you had showered,
regained your human scent,
we fed you a king’s banquet
grilled cheese and tomato soup.
We covered nearly every inch of you
our skin on your skin
as if to hold you in that moment forever.
And on that first night, you found the sky unbearable,
all that open space and vulnerability.
And that was how I came to know the prison
you carried home from your cinderblock lodging.
The one you hide behind your smile
the one under your easygoing laugh
the one residing in the dark spot of your eyes.
I know this prison rattles its chains inside you;
my ear pressed to your chest, I think I hear
the metallic sound of keys, the click of a lock.
I am not sure whether it is opening or closing,
but I definitely know that I am on the outside
and I am trying to get in.