Gary Palmer © 2003
Driving onto the prison grounds during chow call,
you stop at a little bridge to wait for a doe
who is guarding her fawns as they cross
the road. She must keep them safe,
away from the outside world and its
speeding highway, safe from the asphalt
dinner plate of the turkey vultures who levitate,
rise from the ground as one, rock as they fly,
circle their dead prey. To eat dinner and not
become dinner, thatís the point here
the doe instructs. Walking down the dog run,
you spy eight gulls standing sentinel on a dorm roof,
squawking, watching the yard as groups of inmates
are herded to the chow hall for dinner.
They study the blue men and discuss
potato chips. The gulls are fat with contraband
not found on the beach, where they own
vacation homes. They keep an eye on a shadow
of a cat that crawls from under the administration
building and creeps toward a sparrow.
Heís a wild kitten, a killer not yet tamed by
kibbles and bits, human contact. The grounds
are quiet, except for the officer calling chow
for the last dorm, a call answered by a murder
of crows, who crash land near the kitchen door,
acting Hollywood, loud and glamorous,
talking trash about people, cackling at the cast
away snacks. A pack of inmates passes
and the crows yell insults at them.
Yard dogs! they taunt, making fun
of the pecking order. Look at that fish,
one crow caws and the birds dip their necks
and watch a lonely man shuffle at the tail
of the blue body of men. See you, see you
wouldn't want to be you! The man looks back
over his shoulder. He's not sure what they said but
he knows the mocking tone. The crows crack up.
They love chow call. You have to wonder
where they came from.
Copyright © 2003
Deborah Tobola has published poems in dozens of print and on-line literary journals and anthologies. Her poem "Hummingbird In Underworld" was named one of five winners of Kalliope's 2002 Sue Saniel Eklind Poetry Contest, and her chapbook Breaking the Plate won honorable mention in the Concrete Wolf 2002 Chapbook Contest. Her work has been nominated for two Puschcart Prizes and has won awards from the Academy of American Poets. She runs the arts program in a California prison, where she also teaches creative writing classes.