by Alice Quinn
“Julia Tutwiler State Prison for Women” by Andrew Hudgins:
On the prison’s tramped-hard Alabama clay
two green-clad women walk, hold hands,
and swing their arms as though they’ll laugh,
meander at their common whim, and not
be forced to make a quarter turn each time
they reach a corner of the fence. Though they
can’t really be as gentle as they seem
perhaps they’re better lovers for their crimes,
the times they didn’t think before acting—
or thought, and said to hell with the consequences.
Most are here for crimes of passion.
They’ve killed for jealousy, anger, love,
and now they sleep a lot. Who else
is dangerous for love—for love
or hate or anything? Who else would risk
a ten-year walk inside the fenced in edge
of a field stripped clean of soybeans or wheat?
Skimming in from the west and pounding hard
across the scoured land, a summer rain
raises puffs of dust with its first huge drops.
It envelopes the lingering women. They hesitate,
then race, hand in hand, for shelter, laughing.
(From Saints and Strangers by Andrew Hudgins. Copyright © 1985 by Andrew Hudgins. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. The poem also can be found in Poems of the American South, Everyman Pocket Poets. Photo by Eugen Anghel)