Two Tales from the Yard
The Politics of Dogs
They let the residents with the dogs out first thing in the morning.
Some of the leashes are long and
the dogs seem to lead the way,
their noses in the grass.
A few bark at the other dogs, the inmates, the guards.
One mongrel leads an inmate towards
the chain link fenced, topped with razor wire,
a bird perched on top.
This could be a day in the park
without women or children.
One young man with dark tattoos on his face
carries his sleek red chihuahua doberman mix in his hands.
"Do you like dogs?" he asks a free staff member.
"He's a good boy, listens to everything his said.
Eats well and won't mess in the cell."
The dog shakes either frightened from
the cold or the presence of strangers.
I reach out to touch him, but he lifts
his paws and pushes my hands away.
The other students are now exiting
their buildings and the yard is filled
with basketball players, men walking the circle,
and guards in sunglasses watching it all
from their bench as if this were a day at the arena.
Red dogs, brown dogs, black dogs and a white one
glisten in the sun.
Suddenly, near the pull up bars,
a young black man in blue and grey
tosses a ball.
The white dog runs after it,
leaps in the air and turns around and catches it.
Everyone watches and then some applause.
The dog sits down, ball in mouth and waits.
The master stands and waits
and everyone has stopped waiting
to see what will happen in the next few moments.
The guards stand up off their bench and
the white dog just sits there,
watching the owner, watching the yard,
waiting for approval of its master
or the condemnation that he was
used to in his previous life on the streets.
you don know bout it like i do
was a time here when you could get
real fried chicken
and steak and sometimes pork chops
with real vegetables and bread
and none of the staff messed with it
and took it home like they do today
now it all goes out the back door
and no one is looking
and they wink and smile at each other
we come here they treat us no good like
The inmate who is speaking is a man with probably
twenty years on me. He is speaking in a voice that is
deep and rich with a hint of a southern drawl
even though I'm told that hes from California - all his life.
His skin is dark and he carries himself with the confidence
of someone in his sixties who has been down many roads
and come back from most as well. He doesn't smile and tells me his tories
matter of fact like. I listen interested
not only to his words,
but for the feelings behind them.
tryna tell you about when i heard
some talkin that i used to work for
i was in with the guard and he was good to
me and says to watch out for 'em
because some of them
is like one type of family
they all talk like theys southern
n this and n that
but then smilin' to my face
with their shoes all shinin'
and their smiles with white teeth
I think I understand what he's talking about
and listen to him speak. I make it a point not
to get too involved in the conversations. But
it doesn't hurt to listen. I don't agree or
try to counter his statements.
its like that in some places
on the outside even
i didn't always used to be in here
was a time i was sellin stuff
workin for a compny out in the sticks
near Parlier or someplace like that
went into town and theys warning me
already to watch it
watch yer back and such
but i know it
in here its the same
but one time i was takin
the tools out to for the vendor
and to this garage
i came up to this corner
and was walkin my rounds
and in the signpost
they had it hangin
up there like it belongs
just up there
hangin like a little
effigy it was
these downs out here
as it used to be
outside and here
© 2017 Finn Liam Cooper