Quiet Racism

Night smiles, walls carved with names
dead and dying, dates past and present,
crowding into one, petrified in ageless shit.
Silence support the ceiling. The black
hole we see into to see
is all we come to expect.
We expect to see no less
than ourselves looking back.

He is lying in the rut of his mattress,
his back to us, his black face pressed
to the wall, his shadow shorter
than we prefer. We are waiting
for the explosion that will
surely stain the wall, that will
speak in ancient tongues there is
life to be got from that rock.

One of us knocks on the steel door
and laughs, unsettling the air he holds
in his hand like a festering penis.
No girlie magazines, only
scars of a beating way back when he
learned by heart his place in prison.
We know this but laugh just the same.
We know what Thorazine does to man, his nature.

We wait for the spermless spurt,
the old man’s grin as if secrets
are in dry air, empty gestures.
We lay waiting, eager as young cubs,
for the final disgraceful outburst,
the raised white head, toothless face.
Too eager this time, and with a stick,
we force him on our urge. We
probe him as we would a dead dog.

When he lay still, not breathing or speaking,
we turn him as if on a spit.
His face lept out of shadow,
his eyes rolled back as if to see,
his tongue, now black, hung out his mouth,
and on the wall in bright flames
sprang a voice touching us all.