Alcatraz

On a visit to Alcatraz I was struck by the contrast between the view of the San Francisco coast and its unparalled beauty and the lives of the prisoners who were once held on this island. In addition to losing their freedom, it seemed a special kind of cruelty to face their internment with a view of such welath and beauty – close enough to almost touch but permanently out of reach.

As I reflected on this experience, it seemed to be a metaphor for many of our cities. Neighborhoods of immense wealth butting against neighborhoods of abject poverty. The view of those living with abundance an added humilation and burden to those living with sacrcity, hunger and fear.

If Mahatma Gandhi’s words are true that “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.” then I fear for how we will be judged.

Perhaps it is time for us to imagine a time when we turn all of our prisons into parks, and neighborhoods of despair into communities of caring and hope.


ALCATRAZ
by Carl Josehart

Sailing on his parents
yacht
the little blond boy
with clear blue eyes and
bright future
glides effortlessly
freely
past
a rock fortress
jutting out from
the gently rolling
water

High above him
caged in a dark cell
a blond man/boy
presses his once
innocent
youthful face
against
unforgiving iron bars
he imagines a faint mist
of salt spray
brushing past his lips
and he dreams of open spaces

the little blond boy with
chestnut
sun kissed legs
climbs high atop the mast
leans out and looking toward the horizon
the boat vanishes
he is alone
flying above the
blue ocean
keeping pace with
a silvery seagull

straining
rust cutting into his skin
from bars on the window
man/boy squints one eye closed
and tries to imagine his
cage gone
just for a moment
to be outside the bars
sunlight warming his skin
gone pale from
dank
damp
darkness

one
atop another
they live
cramped
into
too small cells
too narrow almost
to stand
too small almost
to breathe
too drab almost
to live

one
aside another
they exist
mute
in enforced silence
tapping in tempo
to talk
whispering down
empty pipes
which carry their thoughts
hopes
and dreams
alongside
sewage
out so sea
washed away
like lives
too broken to fix
too heavy to float which
sink like stones
skipped on waves
by a little blond boy
with clear blue eyes
and chestnut
sin kissed legs
sailing
on his parents’
yacht


 

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