Two Tales from the Yard

Updated on December 24, 2017
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Finn Liam has a career in librarianship, having worked in a variety of library settings. He currently lives in California's Central Valley.

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

baked potatoes

with real vegetables and bread

and none of the staff messed with it

and took it home like they do today

he says

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

are the

as it used to be

nothin changes

outside and here

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Finn Liam Cooper


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