Image by Fredrik Rubensson via Flickr Creative Commons

In This Space

By Steve Umfrid

They whys of it all escape me

As I lay here on my side,

Arms raised in front of my face

A shield to block the constant light.

Cold seeps through the concrete

Chilling my forearms, knee-caps, feet

Wherever my still body makes contact.

The walls that hold me are ever present

Even with my eyes shut.

There is a quiet, even breath

Another person is in this space

Just a few feet from me

Creating his own dreams of freedom

Biding his own time.

I feel my connection to you

Tugging gently from my center

Unwinding through the night

Steadying my floundering soul.

You say thinking of twenty years ago

Is easier for you to deal with than

Imagining the decades I have left.

But at this moment it all feels like eternity

This one winter is hard for me.

The whys of it all escape me,

Too complex to grasp in my hands,

They trickle through my fingers,

Flow over and around and past me.

When our lives have fallen apart

Will our beliefs sustain us?

Drawing my own breath, I come back

To this moment, this instant in time,

A draft across my cheek, my hip against the mattress.

Someone asked me if I would rather be blind or deaf,

And I couldn’t imagine a life without your smiling face, without your gaze.

The irony is not lost on me

That in this severance

I have found my deepest connection

That which encourages me to reach out.

The whys of it all escape me

But I take solace in knowing

I will never understand the reasons

But they are there all the same.

When our lives fall apart, will our beliefs sustain us?

Steve Umfrid is currently incarcerated in the Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. Despite his circumstances, he manages to transcend the walls that confine him through his writings.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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