December 7th, 2000

Golden drunk
  • muse

(no subject)

Eighteen Day Cynicism

Music: Draw Them Near by Jess Klein.
Lyric of the moment: "My love is a little white dove in my pocket" from "Little White Dove."


I stumbled over a piece I wrote a while back after I had to post bail for a friend who landed in jail due to unfortunate circumstances (a missed court date for a traffic ticket, for which a judge issued a warrant). When I dropped him off after making a plate of hashed browns and sunny side eggs to keep him company, I started thinking about the pure starkness of the booking area and the strange cardboard side hung over the booking area, in straight sight of the temporary holding cells.

Pretending to be a criminal for the sake of writing made me feel strange, like I was stealing the skin of a stranger and slipping it over my shoulders for a dance with the dark side. This skin did not fit, but the words made it seem real to me for the few minutes it took to pen the poem.

Ironic, but not cynical,

Eighteen Days Left
by me � 1997. All rights reserved.

"Eighteen shoplifting days left
before Christmas,"
the strip of cardboard read,
over the head of the pregnant cop
handling booking. She was gravid
as a salmon having made the upstream
sojourn, swollen with a fertilized egg.
I wondered whose it was.

The beasts in the holding cells rumbled
and roared, begging for her attention.
Her eyes knew the tricks of the animals,
and she muttered, handing me
a Kleenex to wipe the ink from my fingers,
not so different from the pawing
that removed the blood from my hands,
and the memory from my skull.
It wasn't supposed
to be like this, I thought.
It wasn't supposed to go this far.

"Eighteen days left," the sign said,
crimped brown cardboard
begging for my look.
"Never been booked before,
huh?" the cop asked,
surgeon's eyes scalpeling
the staring thing that was me,
beyond the fluorescent halo of light
that kept stabbing my eyes. Crumpled
edges of fast food wrappers hissed at the table
when she swept them away: pop culture
represented in golden arches and the red clown
lips that traded children's dreams for consumerism.
"No," the bare bones whisper clawed at the tunnel
of my throat--plucked vocal cords, discordant rasp.

"It's always young ones who stare the most,"
she said. "It's always the ones like you
who don't belong here," she grumbled, meeting
her kicked abdomen with a curving hand, the tempo
of the fetus loud enough for me to hear,
louder than the wolf-sounds of the inmates,
who wanted a lick of human steak.
They smelled me the way a dog knows
the scent of fear on another of its ilk. I knew
they would be circling me
when the key bit the lock.

"Eighteen days left," the sign echoed,
encouraging kleptomaniac fantasies.
Eighteen days passed
and I did not get out in time
to see the gaudy spectacle of Christmas
beyond the steel teeth of the cage and misery
that held me longer than eighteen days.