Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tara Skurtu: Visiting Amber at Lowell Correctional

Tara Skurtu is a Florida poet who lives in Boston. I first heard this poem last year and loved it. Here it is reprinted for you. If you don't live in a land of lizards, she means the green anole (not the crested one, which is a usurper of lizardom).

Visiting Amber at Lowell Correctional
A windowless room. My mother and I
remove shoes, socks, spread our arms wide
between the cinderblock wall and locked door.
The guard takes a swallow of V8
before patting us down. Inside, I ask Amber
if this is a maximum security facility. 
She tells me they’ve got her in here with murderers

like The Gardener—worked at a daycare,
killed a few kids there, buried them
alive. They gave her yard duty until
she began to name the trees she planted:
Josie, Maggie, Stephanie. Slicing deep
into her thighs, she mortared her wounds
with shit and got gangrene. In a wheelchair now.
“Don’t wanna think about her no more,” Amber says.
“Seeing her every day is bad enough.”

An inmate takes Polaroids, two dollars each,
acrylic wall paintings in the background.
One of an angel, feathers fanned out against a pastel sky.
“Stand here,” Amber says. “I want you to have wings.”
She’s to my right, our mother to my left. We smile big.

When I dream about my sister she’s a child,
in our Florida backyard, wide-eyed and silent.
She fills buckets with garden snakes,
catches strawberry-necked lizards
poised with the want of a mate.
With one hand she holds a wriggling lizard,
with the other she hinges its jaws open
then closed onto the lobe of her ear.

Originally appeared in The Southeast Review 

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