Thomas J. Erickson is an attorney in Milwaukee where he is a member of the Hartford Avenue Poets. His poems have appeared in numerous publications. His award-winning chapbook, “The Lawyer Who Died in the Courthouse Bathroom” was published by Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin Libraries in 2013. His first full length poetry book, The Biology of Consciousness, will be published this spring by Pebblebrook Press.
The Prison Visit
Because I’m an attorney and know where I’m going, I don’t
need an escort to walk to the infirmary to see my guy
once I pass through security at the gatehouse.
A couple of inmates come up the path dressed in dark green. Neither
is one of my old clients but you never know. We don’t make eye contact
but our shadows touch as we pass.
I am visiting Paul. He is paralyzed from the waist down and partially
blind after being shot by the cops. He has a little goatee which another
inmate has to shave. He’s been in for twenty years and will die before
he makes parole. I don’t want to lie so I don’t bring it up.
He spends his days listening to music and lying in bed. He tells me
he’s lucky because his room in the infirmary has a window. He can’t
see much of anything but the light is different and sometimes in the
morning, the sun touches his face. He’s begun listening to classical
music and really likes Vivaldi.
On the walk back to the gatehouse, I realize I probably won’t see Paul
again. It’s kind of a relief because I can’t do anything for him anyway.
Plus, no one’s paying me anymore. He’ll die in his room someday.
His earphones will be in and no one will hear the symphony.
The Floating Man
Tonight I am in a mist. I barely know what’s what.
It started during a trial. I was sitting there listening to the DA’s
…….opening statement when I started floating about the courtroom,
over the judge, the jurors, the bailiffs, my client, the victim’s family
…….wearing matching shirts with his super-imposed photo.
I could even see me– whispering to my client, taking notes,
…….staring into space. I looked tired and I needed a haircut.
The next time I floated, I was at a baseball game with my two
…….sons. They were still pretty little. I let them climb
to the top row of the upper deck. I drifted way up to keep
…….an eye on them.
Far above the stadium, I could see the arc of the fly ball that fell
…….to the glove of the outfielder with such regret,
I would have kept going if they hadn’t pulled me back.
He wandered to the window
looked out on McArthur Square,
a man with a backpack sleeping
on a bench across from memories
of fountains and flower beds;
on the sidewalk he saw figures moving—
probably college students jogging
from the campus to the lake and back
Far off in the sallow sky the seagulls
And he thought of the heavy lassitude
Then the more nuanced
indolence commanded by the summer’s day
And in a moment it was time to leave
his luxurious meander and return
to the next witness.
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