How Should I Look?
How Should I Look?
How should I look, or act?
I asked him, in answer when he said,
You don’t look, or act like you’ve spent
that much time in prison.
(Three decades, plus some change, meter running).
Should my eyes be crazed, glazed, unblinking, uncaring?
Should my face be lumped and creased,
teeth rotted, gapped, and broken?
Perhaps the nightmares I’ve lived have twisted me,
the brawls and beatdowns broken my back?
Ought my arthritic hands shake, palsy from the deeds I’ve done,
Defend myself, offend thee, have blooded and bled
The Dead who fell, unrisen to the bell?
Do you wonder at my outward normalcy and doubt?
Did you expect to gaze upon faded blue teardrops
dripping from the corner of my sad eye,
Or crude tattoos of zodiacs, hearts, forgotten names
of lovers cavorting, my neck encircled with blue dashes,
subscripted, “cut on dotted line?”
Or rather you would frown at “LOVE’ and “HATE” paired
on the battered knuckles of each hand, endnotes
to jumbled creeds and symbols snaking down my arms?
How should I act?
Would you prefer I meet your expectations,
Grasp your neck with yellow-clawed fingers,
tobacco-stained tips squeezing off your airway,
Sour breath tinged with yeasty fumes of prison wine
burning your eyes
while I rip the watch from your wrist with my free hand?
Does that suit your notion of what a man becomes
when he’s been caged for decades with wild beasts?
Can you only imagine the outward destruction of a man,
and not the inner?
Can you not see beneath the surface to the scars
of broken hopes and dreams inside my heart,
the life unlived in freedom, x-ed out?
The loss of love and family snatched away
like a rooftop in the storm, exposing
the trashed memories, meager belongings soaked
in the shattered house below?
Of course you can’t.
You only see the outward man, cleanshaven,
smiles, upright posture yet unbroken, unblemished
as the wanted poster says: no scars, marks, or tattoos.
Except for those you cannot see, trauma obscured
beneath the sedimentary layers of life in prison.
Sorry to disappoint you.