A poem from Juvenile Detention Chaplain Lisa Ashley.
He met his baby niece and toddler nephew
for the first time on that three-day special visit.
Each child was named for him,
the way his brother and sister honored him.
His mother wept tears of joy,
her baby son, her youngest child,
her first visit since he was sentenced
six years ago.
He’s a grown-ass man now, twenty three,
seven years lost in drab gray rooms,
twenty eight more to go,
all that time no touching allowed.
The baby girl grew tired,
fell asleep in the crook of his arm,
her head lolling back,
small feet in white shoes dangling.
His slender brown fingers
and muscular arm
cradled her gently
as he gazed into the camera.
Deprived of human touch
all the weeks that grew into years,
his body like the dried snake skin
left in the desert sun,
suddenly flushed full
by this flash-flood of child love,
trusting him to hold her
as she abandoned herself to sleep.
This moment of gentle touch, soft holding,
deep joy and infinite sadness
mingle in his brown eyes,
caught in the lens.
He watched them walk out
the double-locked doors,
standing stock still in the visiting room,
oblivious to the other men and their families.
The guard walked him back to his empty cell,
hot stifling air enfolded him.
He sat down on his bunk
missing them already.
Walking in the razor-wired yard
he looked up
and watched two eagles
riding the thermals
out there in the Palouse, free
to float where they would.
He wondered what his niece would look like
six years from now.
Would she let him hold her then?
© 2017, Lisa Ashley
© poem, Lisa Ashley
May 8, 2017