We startled at discovering Mike
casually slouched on a bench at the back
of the empty courtroom, half an hour
before the second hearing was due to start,
guarded by a sturdy uniformed female
who welcomed us to sit down.
Eagerly conversing with our son,
we barely noticed court personnel
drifting into the room until everyone
jumped to attention when the white-
haired judge walked briskly to his desk.
Despite leg irons, Michael rose quickly
and accompanied his attorney to the front.
Often interrupting the reading of the charges
and stipulated sentence, the judge softly
and repeatedly asked Mike whether he
understood and agreed with all the wording.
Mike always answered promptly, firmly,
and with more respect than he ever gave us.
So it was soon finished.
We hugged our boy one last time, watching
as he accompanied his guard to the elevator,
the chain around his waist parting the thin fabric
of his two-piece summer weight prison pajamas,
showing the skin of his tawny back this cold January day.
Nodding him a bleak goodbye as we exited into the gray
afternoon, I couldn’t help but remember that Michael
(while still a kid at home, watching TV with the family)
hadn’t lounged in a chair along with the rest of us. Rather,
he’d always stretched out on the floor alone by a wall heater,
more than the rest feeling the cold.
first published in Karamu
also published in BEHIND PRISON WALLS Chapbook
©2006 Bonnie Manion