Jail - Poem by Russell Thornton
A murder of crows stands along a power-line,
and I hear nothing all morning but the cawing,
and see nothing but the shapes of blackness -
the sires who deal out death, and find and eat the dead -
and then I recall sitting naked hours in a chair
in a hot, bulb-glare-bright, urine-soaked cell.
Waking another time, face to a cement floor,
in a lock-up out of an old TV sitcom,
breathing in cleaning-bleach fumes, vomiting.
Striding proudly into a cell in North Vancouver -
the place I had always wanted to be.
Hometown RCMP jail. Smooth grey walls.
Pure white bowl. Steel ledge bed. I hear my heart muscle
contracting in rhythm as if working wings.
Almost hear it caw. Almost feel the valves,
the membranous doors allowing the blood
to flow in and not out, out and not in.
Know now my heart is the scavenger of my blood -
its one need is to fill its emptying hollow.
I have brought it to a barred concrete box
to clench, to unclench, and plead in this way
for blood to flow with force in through a door
to the son I am, and out through a door
to a father cawing down the corridor artery -
and back again to where sons and fathers
must begin and end, and meet in nothingness. Crows
fly off then up to the tops of power-poles.
I want the caws and carcass-dripping beaks
to show me the way to no right or wrong,
good or bad, love or hate, to instruct me
in how there is nothing more than the hearts
of those judged to be lost, apart, punished.
I want to walk in the heart of the criminal,
the father and son who are free, the man
who holds within his core the life that beats
in a small bird or crow, and moves through a flower,
even as he is led away in the sun to be killed.
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