there are no words

National Day of Prison

In honor of The National Day of Prison:

Prison Letter
M. A. Jones

You ask what it’s like here
but there are no words for it.
I answer difficult, painful, that men
die hearing their own voices. That answer
isn’t right though and I tell you now
that prison is a room
where a man waits with his nerves
drawn tight as barbed wire, an afternoon
that continues for months, that rises
around his legs like water
until the man is insane
and thinks the afternoon is a lake:
blue water, whitecaps, an island
where he lies under pale sunlight, one
red gardenia growing from his hand —

But that’s not right either. There are no
flowers in these cells, no water
and I hold nothing in my hands
but fear, what lives
in the absence of light, emptying
from my body to fill the large darkness
rising like water up my legs:

It rises and there are no words for it
though I look for them, and turn
on light and watch it
fall like an open yellow shirt
over black water, the light holding
against the dark for just
an instant: against what trembles
in my throat, a particular fear
a word I have no words for.

___
1982, Arizona State Prison-Perryville
Buckeye, Arizona

Author: pizzaslices

Liza is an actor and co-creator of Subway Token Films, a film production company that captures Street Level Miracles through films. That is, moments in our lives when the story as we know it stops, the lens is pulled back and something more expansive is revealed to us. Liza has won awards and audiences alike for her portrayals of the immigrant story on stage and film. She lives in New York City and Los Angeles with her partner, actor Felix Solis.