Arts + Scene » Poetry

Icebreaker

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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,

I explained,

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.

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