Investigating the Witness

Have to tell you I

really wanted to send you a letter

O skinny boy

of wise smile

& frightened eyes.

In the locked room

of the California Youth Authority

you clutched my business

card like it was

your mama's breast

fighting your way through

my tough questions

pacing back and forth

like a trapped panther

changing your story

again and again.

Finally you smiled

conceding my win

& said: here's the truth.

This is what really happenened.

You were not a witness after all

but a participant

to the crime.

Yeah you broke

into the school

stole the computers

wrecked the place.

Okay you said so

now what.

You were already doing time

You were thirteen

& got seven years

for stealing roses

for your girlfriend

They didn't know what else

to do with you so

they put you here in CYA

where the toughest & oldest

men are twenty-five.

You were the youngest

of the cool-eyed cat boys

& you were shaking.

What they gonna do to me

you whispered.

I want to get outta here.

They do things to you

in here.

You held my card

& your eyes said

Help me

or write me

or something.

I said keep in touch

knowing this might be

the last time

you asked anyone

for anything.

Outside

the metal door clanged shut

I breathed the fresh air

looked back at the wall

wondered what you'd be like

in seven years

& shuddered

knowing I was not a witness

but a participant

to the crime.

-Lisa Gale Garrigues

from Sky Full of Holes, Lizard Blue Press

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