April 6, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 5: Condemned

A narrative poem, still pretty rough. I’ll decide next month whether it’s worth revising.


Seven awoke in a prison with no cells, a crowded
linoleum plain whose far walls, whichever
way he moved, retreated from him. The ceiling
was lost in the distance. His fellow inmates,
men and women, walked nowhere with fast
purpose, talking or shouting or mumbling or whispering
a strange lingo, the sourceless light harsh
on their clothes. All were tall. One, standing still
and crooning, impossibly so, a giant; burlap peeked
through tangled hair that reached the floor; shackled;
not sad.
            Seven stumbled aimlessly at first, finding
the rhythm of traffic, gawking. No two uniforms
were the same. Here, cobalt blue; there, off-white
trimmed in magenta; another wore motley. His own
was pale yellow, brown-speckled, pink-streaked.
Having no better plan, he began walking.

Through years of wandering, he picked up the jargon
well enough, though parts remained a puzzle;
learned how to find good food, clean water.
Once, he found a staircase, and followed
it down to a maze of concrete tunnels. There
he came upon a cadre of guards swarmed by yapping
inmates. He felt he had to take a side
and faced off against a guard whose eyes
were mirrors. The guard raised a club,
then stopped, lowered his arm; pressed a round
something, a compass, into Seven’s hand;
turned away. Seven ran back to the top.

He picked, because it didn’t matter, north,
and walked. Time blurred. He was among
those his own size. Many had compasses,
but few agreed. Each trusted his own,
a faith without belief.
            He made friends, and one
in particular; her compass aligned with his.
They traveled together, but one morning he awoke
alone, the floor deserted; a distant blur
might have been her. It was months of walking until
he was among people again — a scattered few
at first, and never again a crowd.
            Then years
of plodding. People grew shorter. His clothes
were shabby, stained, torn. One day the wall
seemed closer, and he could almost see where
the light came from. He could nearly make it out.


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