Jesus Christ Pose
I walk both sides of the fence.
I have no sympathy for those who premeditate
and execute heinous crimes.
In a theatre practicum in San Quentin
I watch you, a prisoner, standing
in the center of the room.
You raise your hands, palms up,
head dangling down,
your Jesus Christ pose.
You begin to stand on one foot.
The room is quiet. People begin
shifting in their seats.
Minutes pass. You begin to lose your balance.
Every morning, you say, after my foster father left for work,
she made me stand in the corner like this.
When your desperate left foot
hits the ground
you scream in the voice of a child
And now I understand why
some of you are here.
* * *
I suppose it's just habit,
when I pass the guys in the yard that I ask,
How's it going?
Always since I was a kid, I'd ask,
How's it going? To strangers--to friends.
Today, as I pass men in their prison-issued khakis
and numbered shirts, one stops and tells me,
Don't you know--you're not supposed to ask us that?
And those few seconds that we stand face to face--
I try to conjure up what I should have said before a guard
orders him away.
What I should have said was,
No, I didn't know. How stupid of me
not to think of something smarter to say.
Me, the teacher, who can leave this prison camp
any time I like.