Old Dogs

JAILBIRD


my worst fear
had finally
come to pass

INCARCERATION

but luckily only
in a small county lockup
and not some penitentiary
a drunk driving conviction
being minor enough
to condemn me only
to the fortunate
first circle
of penal
purgatory

answer questions
swap my street clothes
for a tattered jumpsuit
and cheap plastic sandals
then follow the guard
to a common cell
for petty offenders
to be locked securely
behind a grey metal door
with a wire reinforced
observation window

I hopped
upon an empty
unmade upper bunk
and settled in
for the
duration

after
the initial wave
of confinement anxiety
I attempted
to accustom myself
to the jail house
routine

I had made it
in time
for the evening meal
dished out at 6pm
right there in the cell
like room service
by mute trustees
lights out at 10pm
then reveille at 0600
followed by breakfast
a half an hour later
finally lunch at noon
leaving us the lengthy
tedium of the in-betweens
to contemplate our
transgressions

there was TV
but as newest member
of the now
group of seven
I felt that I had
little voice
in the viewing choice
and relegated myself
to an inane fare
of wrestling
westerns
and Hee Haw

we were allowed
a single community copy
of the local newspaper
and I spent some time
reading the obituaries
classified ads
and court house news
the latter a cell favorite
as we laughed knowingly
at the crimes committed
and sentences given
to our brother
and sister
criminals

the only other
diversionary options
seemed to be sleeping
and taking showers
and since I had only
a 48 hour sentence to serve
I opted to remain grungy
a bit leery
of the shared
shower facility

I did take
full advantage
of the napping opportunities
slipping hazily in and out
of a disturbing dreamland
which I left
gratefully at times
almost relieved
to be a safe guest
of the county

the hours
slowly crept by
my only enjoyable activity
were the early morning chats
with a 73 year old crank
in the can for assault
who smoked continuously
breaking only for food
and sleep

the relatively
clean air
of our cramped quarters
apparently caused him bouts
of intense coughing
and fearing for his health
I quietly asked the others
if any of them knew CPR
but "let the old fart die"
was the only response
to my concerns
maybe 73
was old
enough

he coughed
himself awake
each morning at about 4am
only able to quiet down a bit
after two or three cigarettes
their tips glowing in the dark
as he recited a sad litany
of legal entanglements
during his long life

I'd
prop myself up
listening as he spoke
everyone else asleep
apparently immune
to his matutinal
musings

he needed
little prompting
probably none at all
a lonesome soliloquy
in a shroud of smoke
no audience
required