My first day leading the prison writing workshop: Carlos
complimented my choosing the chair nearest the door.
I read a poem by Whitman that once sent me hitchhiking
and Carlos stood up, asked to read a section from his four hundred-page work-in progress,
a poem that turns on his first finding Neruda’s “One Year Walk”;
he said it lit up the night like a perfect crime, so I left everything—
I had no choice—walked three thousand miles to the Pacific.
From memory he recited a passage in which his father left the family
a small fortune, all counterfeit: though I doubted the facts, I can still see
that worn briefcase, almost-perfect hundreds stacked neatly in shrink-wrapped packs.
I was young, it took me two weeks to accept that I could teach this lifer
nothing. World of concrete floors and everlasting light:
he was grateful to God who gave him a blazing mind not granted to anyone living or dead,
and wouldn’t have changed a word anyway.
I snapped the picture in Houston.