Charles Norman was awarded First Place in poetry in the 2012 Prison Writing Contest.
How Should I Look?
How should I look, or act?
I asked him, in answer when he said,
You don’t look, or act like you’ve spent
that much time in prison.
(Three decades, plus some change, meter running).
Should my eyes be crazed, glazed, unblinking, uncaring?
Should my face be lumped and creased,
teeth rotted, gapped, and broken?
Perhaps the nightmares I’ve lived have twisted me,
the brawls and beatdowns broken my back?
Ought my arthritic hands shake, palsy from the deeds I’ve done,
Defend myself, offend thee, have blooded and bled
The Dead who fell, unrisen to the bell?
Do you wonder at my outward normalcy and doubt?
Did you expect to gaze upon faded blue teardrops
dripping from the corner of my sad eye,
Or crude tattoos of zodiacs, hearts, forgotten names
of lovers cavorting, my neck encircled with blue dashes,
subscripted, “cut on dotted line?”
Or rather you would frown at “LOVE’ and “HATE” paired
on the battered knuckles of each hand, endnotes
to jumbled creeds and symbols snaking down my arms?