Letters from Daddy (29)
1. My love child of song, child of some place names aren’t meant — needed, if you can hear me in this prison yard, then I sing prayer like gospel in a four wall monstrosity of scribbled letters. + Mothers are apricot trees to pick from and fathers are mountains you see in postcards or from afar but never up close so you keep walking til your feet hurt and hunger succumbs to dragonflies and dry cactuses, to smoking outside of bars and laughing with the intention to succeed a want, and how the stories of a man you never met could be of some importance, so relevant that he left before chorus, and now you’re 23 and a release date is just an ordinary Wednesday. Daddy empty like justice, streets when emptied into a system, recipe missing its main ingredient. If I don’t exhale tonight. I wrote you some words on a piece of callout, deodorant sticker to seal so God can’t open it, without me knowing. 2. Sugar sweet but deadly, and honey bun a chocolate chip swirling cinnamon, sweet tooth when your momma in her low cut shorts, tight shirt, bring men to a salivating beast where too many eyes stripping her naked gets me all boiled and I gotta show dominance like ape, and before belly swaddled orb, sin lasted on our tongues like sour patches. Momma candy store out of business. 3. You were no bigger than contraband passed on a 6:30 yard, and when a CO catches me with a stash of assortedness it feels like they’re taking you from me, and I cause a scene, bite down and throw my fist before I’m gassed. I take the risk because it’s all I got. Don’t you want to ask why I risked it? 4. I may be dead to you. A visit means that they will have to pat you down, find whatever piece of me you’re hiding. 5. The door opens like normal and I’m immovable down to the last second. It was something I heard, a dream catching up like déjà vu, that the universe is a passing CO or the passing itself is the universe. An envelope so many worlds. I begin to believe for no reason — to seize at each step, the sun, the walkway, the officer, the dried blood in the chow hall — when you ask do I believe in freedom, and my response being thrown in segregation, with another charge.
Demetrius Buckley’s poem, “Letters from Daddy,” was selected as the Winner of the Page Davidson Clayton Prize for Emerging Poets. To learn more about the prize, visit our Prizes page. To buy the Fall 2020 Issue, featuring Demetrius Buckley’s work, visit our Purchase page.