Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Battery (Poem)


Mirrors don't exist
        on Rikers. You don't need

glass there to see
        what your heart could not

expand enough to hold
        the last time you struck

back after a fist lifted
        to put you in your place

and a tiny crack of red
        pooled on your lower lip

before you spit. You're guarded
        at Rikers, know to let your body

adjust to its down time there.
        Still, you have to wonder how

your face can make up
        so naturally where light is

denied. You no longer are
        on the run or need a hotline

and a connection. That bridge
        you crossed in Queens showed

one way in, not another way out.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

 Audio Recording of Battery by mdoallas

I wrote this poem in response to a recent Lens blog post at The New York Times that featured the photography of Clara Vannucci, who for several years has been documenting women who are victims of domestic violence and imprisoned at New York City's Rikers Island on abuse charges. Vannucci, who is an assistant to Donna Ferrato, also a photographer and documentarian of domestic violence, has worked inside a European prison as part of a group that uses theatre and photography as tools for change; see some of her remarkable images here. Rikers, which conducts the program "Steps to End Family Violence", does not allow the women to have mirrors, which could be broken and the shards used as weapons, or photographs, which could be used to create fake identification.   


Unknown said...

Beautiful poem.
From Spain, Merry Christmas

S. Etole said...

The raw emotion in your poems is at times almost overwhelming.

Brian Miller said...

sharp write maureen...just had a boy i was working with make some really poor decisions an is facing that one way road right now...

Brian Carlin said...

That second sentence careers downhill so that in delivering it you end up breathless spitting the last words out with the lick of blood. Nothing wasted in the telling. Clear and direct in the language. And the stickiness is palpable where it stops. Really fine write.

Claudia said...

a very tight written poem maureen and your footnotes make me admire it even more...

joel w. clackum said...

There is no joy, just reality held in this verse. Perfect and fitting to the situation.

hedgewitch said...

Frightening, clear as a bell, and real as a photograph itself. Excellent poem about a difficult subject. thanks for the informative process notes and links as well.

Anonymous said...

love the grit in this! yes! nice one Maureen! Have you shared this in the Spoken Word group? You can add it by going to my Fan Page on Facebook :) I hope you will :)


Jenne' R. Andrews said...

...speaking of exquisite, speaking of cadence. The shards of course could also be drown across the wrists. This poem does that, cuts and reaches the warmer blood of discernment and empathy-- beautiful. xxxj

Anonymous said...

i need to rest awhile with your words.
perhaps i will come back tomorrow and take in the photography.

wayside word garden said...

"That bridge/you crossed in Queens showed/ one way in, not another way out." Your poetry moves me and helps me to see the women who are there; I see the cracked mirrors. Wonderful piece and thanks for the background information.

Louise Gallagher said...

It is in your footnotes that the power of your words shine.

and in your voice, they are unforgettable, a stark reflection in the mirrors no one can hold.

Steve King said...

This is direct, compelling and very moving. I admire the sparse style and ability to communicate so much in such a short piece.

robkistner said...

Clear and sober truth, rock hard and well written Maureen...

~L said...

"before you spit. You're guarded"

I loved this line so much... it makes me want to write about the emotions I felt when I read it!

This poem is stunning and really spoke to me.