At a maximum security prison in Connecticut,
I taught a class on using non violence to 30 inmates.
After the introductions,
We divided into two circles:
the inner one to speak
the outer one to listen.
No gestures were allowed,
and no matter what the person
on the inside said,
Do not look away
and do not speak.
What are we supposed to talk about? one of them asked
Tell about a happy, childhood memory.
They nodded nervously, shuffled back into their chairs
I took a seat before a short, solid fellow
with brown hair, powerful hands, and tattoos lacing his arms
I'm Simon, he said. I nodded,
pressed the stopwatch
and inner circle all began to speak.
Simon, however, shook his head:
I have no happy memories from when I was a kid.
And for what was left of those
two unbearable minutes
we stared into each other's eyes.
For two minutes his look was so hard.
I felt the tick of the second hand
Like a hammer on my heart.
In the end he shamed me into looking away.
I pretended it was the watch,
but the truth is the watch was only to remind myself
of all that remains on the outside.