My prison pen pal “Conway” has been reading Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays. In his latest letter, he observed that the use of colored emblems, the red and white roses, to represent sides in the Wars of the Roses reminded him of gang colors. There must be something very primal about the human impulse to divide society along color lines (whether skin color or clothing) and then believe that those arbitrary differences represent real value judgments — the natural order, so to speak.
In this recent poem, Conway examines another way that clothing both symbolizes and creates a power imbalance.
Grab hold your notice, do come too
bring along a ticket, per chance for speeding?
We’ve seen a summons before
been charged through a specific door
for a fine ignored that went to warrant
finally arrested, in a county jail congested.
So, we’ll have to sleep on a dirty floor
where time passes by, that never clicks
on an imaginary clock that forever ticks,
unless of course, someone pays for your bail;
cares enough perhaps, to spare those straps.
Only then, can we be dragged from beneath–
of it, (our bottomless pit)
where pancakes taste, like pigeon shit.
Naked jailbirds, feebly rubbed against another
gagged with expressionless restraint
scooched along corridors with voiceless complaint
where chains dragged in, in exploit, then bragged about
are limitless banes of committee.
Uninformed, disregarding humanity
lying to become wards of a ruthless city.
Accept this summons, now come along
it matters not, if you’ve done no wrong
or argued any specific reason
What is this? The time of day,
without a window, sun’s light to see.
What would you say, if you were cold;
Nakedly sold, told No way!
“You may not wear warm clothes today.”
What could you say, if you would but say,
“Stay those icy cold fingers of punishment.”
But, this chill is devised for our bones to feel
No more “Monty Hall let’s make a deal”
with those insulated halters.
We must oppose the foes who choose
to make up rules–
to strip us of our clothes (like the fooled Emperor)
If not, then take a ticket
come inside; Regardless
if you care not to take this ride
swearing enough to start a landslide
where the razor wire divides the road
The one our ancestors must all have strolled.
Some poor soul struggled with a tyrannical law
or fanatical persuasion, sanctified definition
of someone else’s screwed up vision;
dynamic rule of indecision.
Which door do you have for me?
I’ll pick one or two, not three
That’s not a lucky number for me.
We only pick, if we can pay the toll,
only then; someone else must refill the bowl.
Then, pick up another summons
eventually take this ride, come inside
as this penalty takes its time
your time, our time, or
time to fall asleep.
Blindly justice suffers this
because it missed the truth
then stole away our youth
finding out we’re already in, and
way too deep, too late
to disturb this butchered fate.
Another broken promise
where money makes the rule
this sticks like super glue, yoked
bound in solitude, to a matchless shoe
under the turning of the screw…