By conservative estimates, there are currently enough wrongfully convicted people in prison in the United States to fill a football stadium.
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I put in my goddamn hearing aid
in order to listen to a bird that sounds
like the side of a drinking glass
struck lightly by a fork
and try not to hate a life
that dips you in Time like a tea bag
over and over and pulls you up
each year a slightly different color.
Yet I like this hour when the air goes soft
and leaves stir with relief at the end
of their labor of being leaves.
“What a piece of work is man,” I say,
forgetting Hamlet said it first —
“how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties,
in form and moving how express;
and yet, to me, the quintessence of dust!”
This hour of the evening
with a little infinity inside,
like an amnesty from the interminable
condition of being oneself.
This half-hour when you can look,
and see that it is sweet.
Even in my deafness I can hear
the bird whose name I do not know,
speaking to someone in the dusk.
This 4x5 birthday card I bought but could not
give as a present to my father
depicts a tiny man in bathing trunks and goggles
seated on the lip
of a giant drinking glass,
looking down at the water.
Initially comic, the implications
start to darken
when you are about to hand it to a man
ticking like a clock, with skin cancer,
and no sense of humor —
Right about then is when you
that as soon as the little swimmer
jumps into the glass half full
of water, he’ll have a zero chance
of ever getting out —
so the jokey image suddenly is tinted
with grim currents
of the morbid truth
and the card begins to look
like a passive-aggressive message
being smuggled under the radar
of a sunny occasion.
Death and claustrophobia; anger;
the judgment of God —
how can they all be carried by a
little card? If
only we could quit
I would give him a card saying,
is Singing to the King!
and he would reciprocate
with one that says, Sap
is for sapsuckers;
whatever balls you have
have come from battling me —
the message full
of gut-punches and grunts,
groans and insults of the kind
that take a family
decades to refine, to
pass down through the years
from a father to a child
and back again —
in both of them a bleeding dusky chunk
of the desperate, cryptic dark —
in each, the struggle of a plant
for just a little more
light and oxygen.