Issue 5: Phoenix
Bob Sward's Writer's Friendship Series
Need to Know
quick list to poets featured in this issue:
Frank X. Gaspar
James Lee Jobe
Daniel A. Olivas
James Lee Jobe
|| James Lee Jobe
Patrick Nolan, Dead at 36
There's an Angel on the doorstep
saying, "You won't last too long."
The clouds are manta rays, or dogs' heads, and
the sky is a color that has no name; it is Dali's sky,
or Milton's. Angels live in that sky, or at least move
through it the way we humans move through our lives,
more sure of ourselves than we have a right to be.
I don't trust Angels; they are God's liars.
I want to trust humans, but usually fail at it.
But then again, my friend, what does a poet know, really?
I don't know anything. I watch the sky and the clouds.
Don Morrison called and told me that you had finally
died in the prison hospital, so now your life sentence
has ended. Who was it you killed? I always wondered,
but could never ask. I tended to deal with you as a poet,
not as a prisoner. You worked with several poets I admire;
Traci Gourdine, Jane Blue, women
brave enough to go into a prison and work with a killer.
I put the killing out of my mind, I published your poems
in my little magazine, and I never once asked you why.
When I met you, Patrick, in New Folsom Prison,
the guards hassled me about my clothes, I was wearing
the wrong color for a visitor, and I had to put on this
ridiculous white jumpsuit..."So's the guards'll know
not to shoot you," laughed a guard, like that was funny.
I walked past the rows of electric fence, past the razor wire,
past all the checkpoints, into the grayness and bleakness
that is 'inside.' We walked through the cellblock's yard
while you pointed out the gangs and cliques to me.
There was no grass, just hard dirt. No colors, everything
was painted a drab, nothing kind of color -- What would Dali
think of that?! You showed me where some flowers had been
growing until the guards saw them and pulled them up.
What bastards. How did you ever find poetry in that place?
It's like Hell. I could easily picture Hell as being a prison.
How many years did you spend there? Fifteen? More?
Maybe this place, Earth, is Hell. Maybe everything eases
up after this...
I don't know what happens to our souls when we die.
Some people who've been dead for a few moments and
then revived speak of peace, and of seeing a white light
that seems to be God. I hope that heaven itself opened
wide for you, in an explosion of color only you could see.
I hope that angels sang as the ethereal sky parted, manta
rays and dogs' heads floating in an explosion of life and
color, that God embraced you, that the answers we all lack
came to you all at once in an orgasm of understanding.
I hope you are finally free, in a place with flowers and poems.