I’m pleased to share the latest installment in the “City Elegy” series of prose-poems by my prison pen pal “Conway”. I was particularly struck by the metaphors he uses to describe the Los Angeles streetscape. That’s first-class noir.
As I interpret the line about the “confidential lunatic’s serenade”, he’s alluding to the confidential “evidence” that the state is allowed to use against his petition for early release, which he is not permitted to review. Due process has a different meaning when you’re on the other side of the barbed wire, apparently. For more information, read this 2012 exposé of the prison gang validation system at Mother Jones.
City Elegy V
Stone-cold-dumb, stumbling through this carnival of unforgiveness.
As another dawn rose madly above my city’s turning cog.
You know, that overflowing coffee mug of smog, steaming along the Angeles crest.
Traffic lights still pierce the night, painfully pulsing like a stab wound;
Bleeding colors across cracked back sidewalks. Plus the white lines,
stitches down the separated black hem of asphalt lanes.
Here though, chain links and crossed fingers wish for an open door, or
a crusty-assed crack in the floor, of this rusted-out cage of bars
being played like a harp.
Old bits of things, themes echoing gray-stoned ballads, ground up talk.
Now used up chalk, stalking the thirst of first burst freedoms.
Yesterday, they played a confidential lunatic’s serenade.
But, I recognized his unclaimed tune, by the scatter-brained beat.
In the heat of officially spun, as it raced away, down storm drains
and ditches. Just to dump the remains of life into an ocean of prisoners.
I knew that sound already. It staggers between
two huge exhaust fans, and the steel sectioned dayroom doors.
Those doors clank open or closed when the cops swagger in.
To drag our chained up skin, outside, then back in —
for discipline or another bus trip to no-where…