By Catherine Zickgraf
It's the middle of the night again
when prisoners around me
wrestle themselves down into restless sleep,
when grown men's eyes leak secret tears
that puddle on the polyurethane,
on mattresses labelled tear resistant
—or maybe it's pronounced teer resistant...
And some men unconsciously clench their limbs
into foetal position as self-protection--
instinctually returning back to the womb,
back to before it all went wrong.
Mom writes me letters faithfully.
She says in her sleep she's crocheting me
afghans to keep me warm in my bunk.
But I sleep instead in a drawer of a morgue
half-frozen specimens whose hearts
are slowed at night for security.
Still she weaves each stitch
from her womb's ligaments
that once held me under her ribs.
She laces in veins that run through her fingers.
So her hands can surround me again.
Like my mother, I dream in colour and dimension,
so I can see her cushioned there in her chair
where she hooks together the textures of home—
looping bows from yarn into rows
of her burgundy rug and chocolate sofa,
twisted with strips of our lit Christmas tree,
jewelled this December in its usual corner.
She comes with the moon to tuck me in,
sliding through the bars of my cell.
And she'll tell you we all need colour to thrive,
that every colour is her favourite.
She'll tell you we all need to nurture to thrive—
but thriving is against regulation.
She says in her dreams when she seems me shake
she unfolds over me her afghans.
Yet I've never told her I shake at night—
how I scream into my pillow's thinness,
how in my cot, I'm cold through my bones,
through holes in my piece of prison grey wool,
like a skeleton stretched with fraying skin.
The rhythm of daylight can distract me from thought,
from the decaying corpse of my soul's slow rot.
But at night in the darkness of deprivation,
alone in my head, I shive in bed
and forget it's better not to feel
since i promised my mother—I promised myself:
though I'm caged, I won't change into an animal.
They have stripped away all my choices,
bunkered me down in a concrete coffin.
But in my dreams, I'm still three
and need my mom to keep me warm.
She holds me here in the heat of her heart,
treasuring her child like a precious stone.
My mother has followed me down to Hell.