Hard Time Killing Floor Blues
Nina Simone, red balloon ribboned in her palm like a parachute latch or tourniquet to keep the ache back, marches behind the guard with such obedience it flails and catches rage. When they reach Angela Davis’ prison cell a garden in hell an ardent green almost aggressive serenity readies for them, their whole radius of the womens’ prison is cheering favor and this echos, sounds like screams and this echoes sounds like screams and this echoes sounds like screams and this echoes sound like— nevermind the endless drawing of curtains the sun invents between bars the steel smelling rubber and cheer barging through a grim howdoyoudo riddled into balloon dowry how we weep together about the commissary where all we see are Newports and wafers, save me, commission me a plate of dried goods with a microwave fever, sweating meat and limp lemons to share as we gaze at one another back and forth bloodied ballooning eyes dazzling and stabbing the silence which chews us gnaws choose me! choose me. How do you do it tuck an inflated wound into confinement as bloom how do you switch with the inanimate this afternoon to escape as a baby’s first cry leaves some vaulted erasure she called safety or becoming and we whisper about the love letters George Jackson has been sending and Nina sings an acapella Plain Gold Ring and the balloon lives in the cell with her to wither and drift until the acquittal and by then George Jackson has been killed and the cheers will have echoed so long they taunt pleasure itself will be a joke by then and she pressed the flat tepid red against her cheek like heart blood to test the texture of oppression on affection sorrow so reticent it’s like rest, like laziness almost languid impossibly receptive love holding hands through the bars and graveyards wet letters horrific cheers pressed into the spirit that they may float up apathetic correctional facility freedom song pawing at the muzzled sky
Photograph of Harmony Holiday by Harmony Holiday.