Prison is the sinner’s bouquet, house of shredded & torn
Dear John letters, upended grave of names, moon
Black kiss of a pistol’s flat side, time blueborn
& threaded into a curse, Lazarus of hustlers, the picayune
Spinning into beatdowns; breath of a thief stilled
By fluorescent lights, a system of 40 blocks,
Empty vials, a hand full of purple cranesbills,
Memories of crates suspended from stairs, tied in knots
Around street lamps, the house of unending push-ups,
Wheelbarrels & walking 20s, the daughters
Chasing their father’s shadows, sons that upset
The wind with their secrets, the paraphrase of fractured,
Scarred wings flying through smoke, each wild hour
Of lockdown, hunger time & the blackened flower.
Added: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 / From "Shahid Reads His Own Palm" (Alice James Books, 2010). Used with permission.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of four books. His latest collection of poetry, Felon, was published in October 2019 by W.W. Norton. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School. Betts was a featured poet at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016.