Concrete, Twin Towers Jail
. . . . . . . . . . Here is the solution to the American drug problem
. . . . . . . . . .suggested a couple years back by the wife
. . . . . . . . . . of our President: “Just say no.” – Kurt Vonnegut
. . . . . . . . . .“None of this happened” – LA Sheriff’s Dept. Spokesperson
For so much warmth, some 9,500 men
locked out of the world (how many
for pot, for coke?),
none of it reaches the bottom
where I sit – the concrete sinks heat,
pulling it into the earth.
Compressed by the building’s weight,
voices still and stagnate – elderly couples
and young mothers, pregnant or rocking babies.
I’m the only one to visit you in jail, to get pulled
up into Tower One and never see a window.
The crackling of the telephone
and the cutting out. What could constrict
such a short line – your voice still
loud in my head though barely coming through.
We only talk for a short time, half-hour
maybe, about the food and the screams
and the psychotropic straitjacket prisoners pull on themselves –
how one man forgot his meds and robbed a bank,
not his fault. He’s gentle on his meds.
L.A. County deputy says he was forced
to beat mentally ill inmate.
Being White is real here, not just PC shame –
Man is slain in his Twin Towers cell, you hear.
White leader looking out for you.
. . . . . . . . . .Phone line’s cutting out.
We bump fists, bookend the glass with knuckle
and you walk by the guard, slip
into the brick maze of the psychiatric floor.
We don’t talk about the four glass pieces
or the pill-bottle of shake, the knot of resin,
the months of missed community service,
or judge’s offer: 16 months plus time served.
As I’m pulled below the city by the metro,
the prison cold seeping from me,
I wonder how long you’ll claim this history,
how long until you’ll rewrite these months.
Denial is not only an overcoming;
it can be armor,
the power to take pity on yourself, rewrite your mind.
But how long will you remember the sounds
of the prison night, its chill and orange glow?
I shake his hand, and look into his blue, deep-set
eyes, and he is still my brother, but something
has changed. In his voice, or in his posture,
the old gods of narcotics and self-medication
have been defeated, burned from each synaptic gap
and replaced by the gods of recovery and relinquishing
control, making him glow
with an intensity that comes only from knowledge.
Some kind of light lingers behind his eyes –
Everyone in the room can sense it.
Even the ceramic owls on the mantle look on curiously.
He knows it, too. He has been
blessed, he says, and can’t wait to bless others.
He now lives to spread his faith
in not-himself, and that’s who’s here.
I’m impressed by the ability of language to create
the self, his vernacular forged from 12-step
and his red-letter edition
making a new self, a mind reborn.
Sitting beside him, now,
I think of the rehabilitation house
where he stayed for months, scraping
grease from hundreds of dishes and from his mind, I suppose
and chain-smoking to press order into the world.
Some sequence he could control.
I think of him sleeping in his matchbox room
with three other men, reliving his addiction
until the last years felt
less real. Soon, even that house will
no longer be real, just some musty dream
had by the city, if cities could dream.
Maybe the unmaking of the terrible is what recovery really is,
a kind of deconstruction of the self made imperfectly.
Sitting beside my brother, I picture all the movement
required to convert the mind, the rearranging of neurons
and the harnessing of their charge, until
they fire in order, one after another, almost without effort.
Cody Deitz resides in Los Angeles where he is a Master’s candidate at California State University, Northridge. There, he studies poetry and teaches composition. His chapbook Desert Sacrament was a finalist for the Uppercut Chapbook Prize and he has been awarded an Honorable Mention by the Academy of American Poets. His poetry has been published in various literary journals including Ellipsis, Chaparral, Split Lip Magazine, and others. He is currently at work on a full-length poetry collection
–Art by Rona Keller