A Wasp Woman Visits a Black Junkie in Prison

After explanations and regulations, he
Walked warily in.
Black hair covered his chin, subscribing to
Villainous ideal.
“This can not be real,” he thought, “this is a
Classical mistake;
This is a cake baked with embarrassing icing;
Somebody’s got
Likely as not, a big fat tongue in cheek!
What have I to do
With a prim and proper-blooded lady?”
Christ in deed has risen
When a Junkie in prison visits with a Wasp woman.


“Hold your stupid face, man,
Learn a little grace, man; drop a notch the sacred shield.
She might have good reason,
Like: ‘I was in prison and ye visited me not,’ or—some such.
So sweep clear
Anachronistic fear, fight the fog,
And use no hot words.”


After the seating
And the greeting, they fished for a denominator,
Common or uncommon;
And could only summon up the fact that both were human.
“Be at ease, man!
Try to please, man!—the lady is as lost as you:
‘You got children, Ma’am?’” he said aloud.


The thrust broke the dam, and their lines wiggled in the water.
She offered no pills
To cure his many ills, no compact sermons, but small
And funny talk:
“My baby began to walk… simply cannot keep his room clean…”
Her chatter sparked no resurrection and truly
No shackles were shaken
But after she had taken her leave, he walked softly,
And for hours used no hot words.
–Etheridge Knight

The Prison Cell

The Prison Cell

It is possible especially now

To ride a horse

Inside a prison cell

And run away…

It is possible for prison walls

To disappear,

For the cell to become a distant land

The prison guard got angry.

He put an end to the dialogue

He said he didn’t care for poetry,

And bolted the door of my cell.


He came back to see me

–Where did all this water come from?

–I brought it from the Nile.

–And the trees?

–From the orchards of Damascus.

–And the music?

–From my heartbeat.


The prison guard got mad,

But returned in the evening

–Where did this moon come from?

–From the nights of Baghdad.

–And the wine?

–From the vineyards of Algiers.

–And this freedom?

–From the chain you tied me with last night.


The prison guard grew so sad…

He begged me to give him back

His freedom.

by Mahmud Darwish, Palestine

Translated and abridged by Ben Bennani