12 June, 2014

From My Courtside Seat

Watch him dribble, the kid in the white stocking cap and brown gloves, all by himself on the half court. Watch him switch which hand he uses, simply trying to keep the ball from getting away. Even I can tell that his technique’s all wrong. Maybe it’s the gloves. He hits the ball open-handed, the way a baby smacks a toy it doesn’t want. He’s too rigid, and that’s why, every third or fourth bounce, his dribbling arm has to apply more force, spend a longer time traveling downward. There’s no fluidity to his movements; he stands mostly still, letting the angle the ball takes determine when and where he steps.

Just as he doesn’t know what he’s doing with that basketball, he probably doesn’t know what he’s doing here — that is, how to spend his time. He undoubtedly sleeps late, past eleven, and reads bad novels from the library into the afternoon. If he owns one, or if his cellmate does, he stays up late watching TV. He might draw, or write letters, but nothing more. What else is there? The gambling, drugs, games, and tattoos aren’t pastimes for newbies, they take connections, which take a while to forge. The kid almost certainly finds himself in a daily battle against boredom and depression. I doubt he’s been here a month yet.

What do you suppose he’s in for — burglary, drugs, robbery? Could just as well be kidnapping, child molestation, manslaughter. Rape. Murder. No, I don’t actually care, it’s just the natural question that comes to mind, particularly with the young, whose apparent naïveté is at odds with these hard surroundings.

The kid dribbles and dribbles. He attempts a fake left, then right, and they’re terrible, spasmodic and flailing — about as bad as I would do if I ever felt like failing at something abysmally. He’s so awful at it yet keeps going, as though he’s up against a bet that he can’t bounce a ball 500 times, or for a straight thirty minutes.

Dark eyebrows, slender face, clean-shaven — from a distance he looks a little like I did when I first got here. Of course, you know well about appearances. I’ve fought my way, with determination if not confidence, through every one of the procedural appeals available. It’s taken a long time. People I meet are still reliably shocked when they find out how old I am, how many years I’ve been locked up in prison, but I spend less and less time looking at my reflection, and it isn’t because I’m growing less self-conscious with age.


  1. Like a babe in the woods struggling to find his footing in the mushy forest bed. If he's fortunate enough to be serving a shorter sentence, he'll return on another case a more seasoned buck with more neck tattoos; this is the life cycle of the wayward woodland creatures.

  2. Don't know if your system received my previous comment where I asked permission to do a blog post on my poetry blog as I was impressed by your work and want to help you get out of there. Can't make corrections to this comment (no pun intended:)) so if it runs on sentences that's why. Google Siham Karami which will give you my blog which has my email. Not the quality of your blog but I mostly post short stuff but have a lot of friends maybe someone can do something big. Because your talent is that big and oppression is that horrible and undeserved. Lots of folks here with nothing to do but get energized by a cause that is not international. Fwiw. We'll be sure not to send anything to Room 309 (wherein resides probably some low-level troll.)


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