I’m Afraid of Parole

A collection of poetry by Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated PG)

“Parole,” He Replied, “I’m Afraid of Parole.”
What are you most afraid of?

“Parole,” he said, and the others agreed
“I don’t like it in here; I don’t have any choices
But no one expects anything much of me
I can’t make any choices, so I can’t fail

“But out there – there – I have to make choices
I have to live up to my kid’s expectations
I have to live like a man, show some initiative
Get up and go to work without being told

“Most of all, I’m afraid of letting my kid down
I might fail him, like I did before

And that’s the scariest thing of all”

A Judge Who Looks Like Me

I do not want a judge who looks like me

I want a judge who looks at me

                                                          and you

And tells us all, “You have asked for justice

And justice you will have.”

A Man with a Broom

Leaving his broom in the corridor
He came into class and sat for a while
He was worried about anger management
He had shot up a nightclub after all

That was after his brother was murdered there
He gets out in twelve days, and he is worried
He has passed over half of his life in prison
He hasn’t seen his son in over nine years

He said he has learned to place God first
Some of it might be true

A Song of the Lord in a Foreign Land

“How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?” -Psalm 137

By the waters of the common sinks and stinks
They sat and wept, remembering their homes
Upon the razor wire they hung their hopes
(Let my tongue be silent during roll call)

Their captors asked of them throughout the hours
Straight lines to the chow hall, well made-up bunks
On time to their classes and work details
(Let my tongue be silent during roll call)

The lyrics of their songs were written by night
The notes and tones well-tuned to concrete walls
How could they sing songs of the Lord?
How not?
(Let my tongue be silent during roll call)

We all are exiles in a foreign land
(Let our tongues sing praise after roll call)

Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Inmates
A Sign Along a Texas Road

Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates

Newton is one way, and Jasper the other
Along the two-lane blacktop between the fields
A farmer in chambray blue cultivates his corn
And lads in prison whites cultivate the state’s

Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates

The passerby wonders if the hitchhikers
Are escaping from inmates or if
The hitchhikers are the inmates who choose
Not to be inmates at the moment

Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates

And then there’s the difference between “may” and “might”
Hitchhikers and inmates, soon out of sight

Maybe we’re all trying to escape something

Prayer Group in a Cinder-Block Room

A Prisoner’s Voice:

We’re all here for all sorts of different crimes
I made it for about three years last time
Built my business back up, rented a house
Married my baby-momma and started being a dad

And I was feeling good about everything
My old customers came back and trusted me
I was sure grateful to them; went back to church
My wife and kids and mom were proud of me

I got cocky; I thought I had it all whipped
I’m back in this white suit for another ten

The Topic was Forgiveness

He had forgiven his friend for shooting him
(He did not tell us what the shooting was for)
But his friend begged him for forgiveness, and it was so
Until his friend shot him a second time

“I ain’t forgiving the ******* for that”
He snarled as he counted his leathery scars
“Once was enough; and Jesus wasn’t there
So don’t tell me I have to forgive him again”

He hobbled away with a painful gait
Supported only by his cane and his hate

To Be Released From Prison Tomorrow

Tomorrow his mother and his little girl
Will meet him at the gate and take him home
No more white suits and big boondocker boots
No wire, no bells, no lining up for counts

Yes, all of us congratulated him
We cheered, we wished him well, we said a prayer
Prisoners and volunteers and a passing guard
We clapped his back and said goodbye to him

Al took his hand; he looked at him and said
The sternest, wisest, kindest words of all:

“I never want to see you here again.”

Well, Hey, Prison, Right?

When, with the chalice in his hands, the priest came to the words ‘…receive me, O Lord, even as the robber’, nearly all the convicts fell kneeling to the ground with a jangling of fetters…

-Dostoyevsky, The House of the Dead
By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall

The first-period were really bad today
But, hey, prison, right?
The second-period were really good today
And, hey, prison, right?

After class a man arrived solo for Mass
And knelt before the Altar that isn’t there
The chaplains asked him if had been to supper
“No, but I’m not going to miss Mass.”

The man would not leave for his supper
Until the chaplains promised him again
That Mass would not begin without him
And it was so
And that, too, is prison

to St. Jude – a petition for prisoners

In the system they’re called offenders
No one knows why; the offenses are over
Concrete dorms, three-high bunks, white uniforms
And overhead the sting of fluorescents

I’m not going all Pollyanna here
All of them know the poisonous passions of meth
The stench of blood, the sting of fluorescents
In fearing eyes in a gas station at night

The stench of cells, the sting of fluorescents
In glaring eyes in the booking area at night
Humiliations, transports, stripped and searched
Form a straight line with hands behind your backs

But still, a man’s a man

The difference between a man inside the wire
And a man outside the wire
Is often only that one man is inside the wire
And the other man is outside the wire

“For all have sinned…”

Christmas is coming
Will there be a letter from home?
St. Jude, help all of us to be better men
In spite of ourselves

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