Under the St. John’s Bridge, David Carmack Lewis
Altar with Broken Glass, Dented Milagro and Absentee Ballot
Letter from the Virgin Mary in Prison
How did this happen? One day I’m sorting petitions, and then I’m on a bus to Chowchilla with no shoes and a baloney sandwich in a paper bag. I never really understood how easy light could fall, how easy to step from sunlight to shadow, how simple the blurring of lines. Think of it…how many others should be cursing traffic or cleaning out their purses? How many others were booked on the evidence of a barking dog? But even the hairless will scratch when fleas go out to recruit a host. My cellie stretches the boa on her neck, feeds it invisible mice and prays for amnesia when she sops up leftover sunlight. She too is innocent, but the proof is charred in the cellar of the house that burned down. I don’t mind top ramen and canned tamales, bunking with lies, showering with cigarette butts, but endless thirst is another story. And how can I follow a path of grace, when everywhere you step, guilt and innocence shine like glass from the same broken bottle? Strange how comfort edges out truth when the lambs gather at the gate and the pregnant cop doles out favors or penance. Strange how sorrowful mysteries edge out joy when visitor roll call booms down from above, like a voice from a cloud. Happiness comes in a different color here—and even communion wafers are stale. I’m still working up to a prayer and confess to no one about my past. To you I’m a stranger, another con with a so sad story and abusive childhood. “Lock her up and throw away the key. Let her fry,” you say, turning away, cold lips parted to receive the host.