For Gabriel Reyes, 14 years in Solitary Confinement
Each day, I enter my life at the same moment:
the guard with the leaden boots is slipping bread
through a slit in the door,
his nails the color of burnt glass
rotting the honey wheat,
his mouth inventing a sin out of silence.
This is the same man who lost his youngest boy
to child services and appropriated my body
disciplined & upbraided me, bruised my hands so well
they still fall lake-wide whenever I try
to make a fist. He starved the other inmates for days.
I was the far-off field who was just spared of the fire.
Now, I am alone in the corner
trying to teach myself how to love the inanimate:
I dip my head between the shoulder blades of the wall
but emerge shivering. I bend light over the objects in my cell
to make shadow people who I undress until there is nothing left.
It is not a mistake to want this.
After my prayers have clotted so thick they trigger the smoke alarm
in the cell four doors down. The guards relocate us,
we frantically try to recarve the tally marks into the stainless steel tables
without embittering our fingers.
You ask about torture?
Last night, they smogged the windows from the outside.
They wore black gloves
when they delivered our food,
played an interment song on mail day.
Speak to the others. We haven’t asked much of our religion.
or better yet,
a piece of edgeless glass
we can carry in front of our faces
stand with our backs againt the door,
and pretend we are on the outside
of this cruel & dismal exhibit.
Tapping the glass with our tooth-chiseled nails
to coax out whatever poor animal is inside.
214 The Paris-American
Alex Greenberg is a rising sophomore at Harvard College and poetry editor of the Harvard Human Rights Review. His work has been published or accepted for publication in: The Columbia Poetry Review, The Florida Review, Rattle, Third Coast, and Fifth Wednesday, among others.