Walls, Stars, Eyes, Walls

A poem about prison and how it changes guys like you.

When you arrive at prison for the first time,
you’re told to find a routine and the time will roll by.
Stay on the right side of the yellow line
and you’ll be all right. Eventually,
you’ll stop noticing the walls. But you want to always notice the walls.
If you make it home,
which version of you will make it home?

The lights that burn above the yard
drown out the stars like a fear. Until you leave, you’ll see no stars.
This is the story everyone told you, from all the old movies.
What happens to guys like you?

On guard for quick movement from the side, for the footfalls behind you,
for the electricity that silently anticipates each storm,
you’ve learned to look straight ahead.
All the time.
Straight ahead.
Such things live in the other men’s eyes.
Such things are growing in yours.

The human head bleeds so much blood after the padlock. A padlock
is a wonder of shape
and violence. Before the skull crack—
but the skull does crack
—blood matts the hair slick as if the bone below is a lie.
Don’t flinch at the wet, metallic sound.
The wet, metallic taste.
You’ve learned to look straight ahead.

Prisons are temples dedicated to our inhumanity. Memorials to our mistakes. Living scrimshaw. Bathroom mirrors heavy and burdened
are scratched to uselessness
and the lost reflections within dissolve like the stars.

“I can’t find my chompers, Larry. They’re just gone.”
The words reach your ears,
but you don’t recognize the voice,
despair and regret and amusement mixed equally.
No one here is named Larry. Not now, anyway.
Maybe the walls remember a Larry, and that would be nice,
being remembered. Such things
live in the walls.
Someone, somewhere, a version of you before all this,
celebrates. Deserving, you said in the time before. Now, you aren’t so sure.
There are monsters here,
but. . . .

You eat food cooked in a mop bucket
using metal plates wrapped with wire
and plugged into an outlet to boil water. The steam
clouds and gathers. The food is hot and good, ingredients stolen from the cafeteria
where the guards eat. They eat well. The guards eat bacon.
If you know the right thieves, you eat bacon, too.

“My chompers, Larry.”
The voice again. Right before you fall asleep,
mumbling beneath the conspiracies and rummaging.
Someone always sings. Someone always snores.
Reaching through your viscous dreams, the voice.
“They’re just gone.”

There are monsters here. The walls breathe with their breath.
You feel their air in your lungs and their tinny powder
in your mouth.
The skull does crack, and the blood
warms your toes as you skirt through the edges.
Skull blood, bright, throbbing with thought.
This is the story everyone told you, from all the old movies.
This is what happens to guys like you.

One night you find a set of teeth
on the sink, three in the morning, the first quiet night you can remember
since the stars disappeared.
Even the faucets have stopped dripping.
The teeth are real, embedded in messy pink gums.
Blood in slender lines reaches from each tooth toward the drain. You smell the old meals
rotting in the gaps.

“My chompers.”
The scratched mirror clears. A man behind you smiles toothlessly,
wearing the same khaki uniform as you. His chin is a bubbling mess of blood and meat.
“I can’t find my chompers. They’re just gone, Larry.”

“I’m not Larry,” you say.

In your hands, the teeth feel heavy.
The blood finds the creases of your palms,
revealing even the secret paths.

“Anyone can be Larry,” the man says.

When you turn, he’s gone,
but the mirror fills.
Shatters.
Your skull cracks
because the skull does crack.
The lights in the night sky go out
in a final complete darkness.

The sky holds no stars.
The sky holds no stars.
But the walls do.

And they watch.

Share "Walls, Stars, Eyes, Walls" with your friends!

About The Author

Buy the Issue

Issue 2.2

In this issue of The Dread Machine, you’ll visit an automated retail hellscape, attend a wild party on Earth’s tempest-ravaged surface, and determine what caused the strange deaths at the AudioSnap building. See the stars in the prison walls, inherit the sacred responsibility of an irradiated priestess, meet a sinister sommelier, befriend a spider, then attend a macabre art show. Whatever you do, don’t eat the honey, and avoid the child with the robotic toys.

$10.00

Featured in

Issue 2.2

In this issue of The Dread Machine, you’ll visit an automated retail hellscape, attend a wild party on Earth’s tempest-ravaged surface, and determine what caused the strange deaths at the AudioSnap building. See the stars in the prison walls, inherit the sacred responsibility of an irradiated priestess, meet a sinister sommelier, befriend a spider, then attend a macabre art show. Whatever you do, don’t eat the honey, and avoid the child with the robotic toys.

$10.00

More stories

Friends?

A poem by Kim Whysall-Hammond.

Retrospective

A look back at the life and works of political dissident Marja Marcos-Smithson, the greatest artist of the post-Cataclysm era.

Apartémon

Play Apartémon, the number one AR (augmented reality) game for making New Friends!

Better Left Shut

What if, when we leave the doors of our minds open, we don’t just attract muses?

More from 2.2

It Is the Voice That Unnerves Me

Dorie’s memory of her deceased husband is being tainted by his Remembrance, a device that simulates his personality.

The Spiders’ Graveyard

Terika doesn’t know what to make of the spiders that are coming to die on her front porch.

Walls, Stars, Eyes, Walls

A poem about prison and how it changes guys like you.

Share "Walls, Stars, Eyes, Walls" with your friends!

What's the password?

Login to your account

Stay informed