Notes from MAYS’ Cycle

Part I

Every sound is magnified
in an empty room. My coffee
cup clatters no matter how
softly I set it on the faux
Formica tabletop. Faucets
drip, fluorescent lights buzz
in my ears. Startled by the clunk,
I shiver as swiftly blowing air
howls above me. I listen to twelve
bodies in the night. Sleep is not
a silent endeavor; it is louder than
you’d imagine it to be; flatulence,
snores, shifting limbs. Colorless
walls and high, barred windows
numb my eyes with monotony as I
make my rounds. Eight hours equals
forty trips, each orbit seeming smaller
than the last. The symmetry dazzles
my brain: blue chairs, Bob Barker shoes,
black binders lined beside every brown
door. Chaos is a folder flopped open.
Rain suddenly slaps at the windows
sounding like a tarp flapped by wind.
I am grateful for this breach of nature,
this reminder of a world outside my
oblong encasement. But it stops as
suddenly as it started, leaving a
sizzling silence in its passing.

Part II

I speak of this place as a claustrophobic’s closet,
yet what of the youth who must live here?
Are they soothed by the symmetry or does
the similarity start whittling away at their
sanity? Do they even notice it, amidst internal
struggles and the ever present mantra of
“Get out, get out, get out”? Do they seek the
structure, for some is it all that they know?
How many are being treated and how many
just treat it as time until the next facility
swallows them up? I wonder if the number
on the wall elicits shame/pride or if it’s just
another poster to be ignored. Today’s count
is twenty-seven. One day short of four weeks
wherein nobody on this unit was involved in a
physical restraint. The wall on dorm A reads 00.
What a way to hash the days. I wonder if they
pass as slowly as the nights, unraveling into a
stagnant sameness that cajoles its participants
into complacency or if it agitates them towards
aggression. How do they cope, when so far
removed from so many useful mechanisms?
Even the simple act of going for a walk is
denied. They’ve committed the crime and must
pay the time, this I understand. But still I
wonder how they survive in here, what gets
them through each day while locked in a cage,
with barely even a chance to see the sun…

One thought on “Notes from MAYS’ Cycle

  1. Your words paint a vivid description of this place, gives me lots to think about. I appreciate the care you’ve taken in word choice, “oblong encasement” “symmetry dazzles my brain” the alliteration: “claustrophobic’s closet,” “stagnant sameness,” the powerful visuals: referring to the numbers on the walls, and even auditory references: “sizzling silence.” But it is the questions you pose that make this poem so haunting. Very powerful.


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