This story poem is inspired by one of the stunning women I have met at the Lane Murray Unit while volunteering for Truth Be Told. She went into prison at fifteen. She was released thirty years later. Her name is withheld for privacy.
I went for a jury trial
I thought I had peers
I thought someone would understand.
Afterwards, my lawyer said, You didn’t
Show emotion. You looked like you didn’t
Regret killing that kid.
Of course I didn’t
Cry. My father said, If you cry,
I’ll hit you harder.
He hit the tears and whimpering and trembling lip
Right out of me.
My father didn’t get introduced into evidence.
Just a gun and a bunch of witnesses
Who said when I got mad, I was scary.
I shot bullets of glare at them.
I was fifteen and I got thirty years
I didn’t cry.
I put those peers in my hate pile
My lawyer too.
I went behind the fence.
I didn’t cry in there either.
Not when the god squad said Jesus loved me
Not when I got put in segregation for telling a guard off
Not when I was hungry or cold or dying of thirst
Hate slows my blood
Inside my white uniform
I am a glacier.
At night when I close my eyes
When I can finally shut out the endless lights
When the bodies of all the women
In the acres of beds around me have stilled
I can hear a shh-shh-shh in my ear
Not outside. Inside.
At first I thought it was my terrified mother
But it isn’t
It is my life