A Poem For Sunday


From “Jail Poems” by Bob Kaufman (1925-1986):

I am sitting in a cell with a view of evil parallels,
Waiting thunder to splinter me into a thousand me’s.
It is not enough to be in one cage with one self;
I want to sit opposite every prisoner in every hole.
Doors roll and bang, every slam a finality, bang!
The junkie disappeared into a red noise, stoning out his hell.
The odored wino congratulates himself on not smoking,
Fingerprints left lying on black inky gravestones,
Noises of pain seeping through steel walls crashing
Reach my own hurt. I become part of someone forever.
Wild accents of criminals are sweeter to me than hum of cops,
Busy battening down hatches of human souls; cargo
Destined for ports of accusations, harbors of guilt.
What do policemen eat, Socrates, still prisoner, old one?

(Reprinted from Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, edited by Charles Henry Rowell © 2013 by Charles Henry Rowell. Used by kind permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. Photo of Kaufman in San Francisco, circa the 1950s, via the City Lights blog)