Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Lordsburg Jail

1980's

The sheriff of Hidalgo County
agrees to schedule Emily's G.E.C.
in the dayroom of the Lordsburg Jail.

I drive a snowy forty-five miles
in the dawn of a pre-Christmas day
to find her confined to her cell
for passing joints around the jail.

I smile, standing taller,
when I hear that I can't see her.
"Her test will be as valid
in a cell as a dayroom."

When the cell door slams
behind me, the shock
strikes me like a fist
against a midnight window.

A thin Hispanic woman
in her twenties,
Emily looks like someone
who had missed the good things
long before she was given six months
for beating up another woman.

The walls are broken green plaster.
A twenty-five-watt bulb
hangs above a top bunk.
She climbs there
with her test booklet.

Freezing after the first
of six hours,
I wrap myself
in a torn jail blanket.

She fails the science exam.
She must try again
or I cannot leave her,
dooming herself to perdition
in this grim Southwestern jail.

* * * * *

Bonnie Buckley Maldonado, http://www.bonniebuckleymaldonado.com/, was the first poet laureate of Silver City, New Mexico. She was also an educator and continues to be a strong influence in the Southwestern literary scene. "Lordsburg Jail" is from her book It's Only Raven Laughing.