Solitary Confinement


Hayneville, Alabama, 1965

Even as the last bars clang
shut and I start to rub the purple ache
clubs left on shoulders, ribs,
and shins, my mind is fashioning
an invisible ladder.
lts rungs an lifts of escape.

They've taken the SNCC pamphlets
but let me keep a book
of Keats — poems reminiscent
of my sad, adolescent affair
with the coffin-maker's daughter,
which taught me many things,
including carpentry.

And when, at dusk,
the trusty held for car theft brings
my tray of grits and fatback,
it won't matter so much that,
groaning and puking,
I'll be sick for hours.

Imagination is good wood; by midnight
I'll be high as that mockingbird
in the magnolia across the moonlit road.

Copyright © Gregory Orr, 1965, all rights reserved.

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