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Throw Aways

By Judith Roche

For the boys at Green Hill Correctional Center

They are only boys, though murderers and rapists.
Bad skin is an issue. Candy bars a treat.
Some are fathers. Few have fathers.

Ink pens are contraband,
though new tattoos bloom daily on arms
enflamed by needles and pain.

Beast and throw-away child,
no one knows where they get the needles.
Hate: Love Live: Die

They remember beatings and fishing trips,
will hurt themselves if no one will do it for them.
Or one another. Innocence assumes forgiveness.

They are both the beast who lives
at the heart of the Labyrinth
and feeds upon the flesh of others

and the children thrown to the beast
to twist and turn in serpentine path
until they meet the hunger that will tear them apart.

One boy stares silent with wounded eyes, tied tongue,
and writes a poem of ten women whose red dresses spread
about their twenty severed hands in pooled blood.

Even the other boys say he is sick. They haven't
read his countryman, Lorca, who writes of sliced-off breasts,
the stain of three hundred crushed crimson roses.

Neither has this heavily medicated boy,
whose imagination flies, an unencumbered bird,
beyond betrayal and forgiveness, beyond his drugged fog.

He's found a vein, an underground river
he can ride to the lyrical heart of his own brutal poem.
The difference is his violence does not stay on the page.

Added: Monday, June 30, 2014  /  From "Wisdom of the Body" (Black Heron Press, 2007). Used with permission.
Judith Roche

Judith Roche is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, Wisdom of the Body, an American Book Award winner, has published widely in journals and magazines, has poems installed on several Seattle area public art projects and has taught at various universities. She has written extensively about Northwest native salmon and edited First Fish, First People, Salmon Tales of the North Pacific Rim (also an American Book Award winner) and is a Fellow in Black Earth Institute. Roche was on the panel Giving Voice to the Silence/d at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

Other poems by this author