The Sunday Whirl,, offered a baker’s dozen for wordle 18. They are: desperation, slouch, screw, light, granite, ash, wasted, cracked, revolution, cleansed, cheap, stranger, spin. As soon as I read them, a theme appeared.

by Mike Patrick

Flickr image by albra

He was the first to leave the bus,
a stranger to this granite tomb
of choking ash and wasted souls.
Across the yard, in deadly gloom,

a thousand empty eyes looked down
upon the newest fish*. No hint
of desperation in his eyes;
he quietly began his stint.

With one quick spin he saw his home
for thirty years to come. Resigned,
he hoisted up his ditty bag
and slouched up to the painted line.

A screw** strip-searched him in his cell.
An orange jumper and cheap sheets
completed all his worldly needs–
except for sights and sounds of streets.

The revolutions of the sun,
which cleansed his blackened heart of crime,
became scratch marks upon cracked walls,
which danced within the light of time.

*A fish is a first timer in prison slang, someone new to prison ways.
**A screw is prison slang for a prison guard.

This entry was posted in A Wording Whirl of Sundays, Crime, Iambic, Narrative Poem, Poetry, Prison, Rhyming, Tetrameter and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to NEW FISH

  1. TheMsLvh says:

    You sure did get those wordle words to work for you. The picture you painted of prision was incredible. So descriptive! Well done. It flowed well, did not even notice iambic, just great!

    • Mike Patrick says:

      I visited a couple in my career, but I wouldn’t want to live there. They must not be too bad though. People are now committing crimes and waiting to be arrested, just for the access to healthcare.

  2. Laurie Kolp says:

    Mike- Powerful… love the last stanza.

  3. siggiofmaine says:

    Mike, I love your wordle. I just posted my pathetic attempt at a wordle because I love words and wordle is so wonderful for a word.
    I have admired your wordles since I first found your blog. Thanks for all the enjoyment.

    ☮ Siggi in Downeast Maine

  4. vivinfrance says:

    It is heartwarming that, given your career, you can still put yourswelf inside the head of a convict.
    I didn’t notice the wordle words. My wordle will have to wait a bit for the words to plant themselves where they will in my tired brain!

  5. My goodness. Being a bit on the claustrophobic side, the thought of being locked up in a small cell for probably 23 out of 24 hours a day gives me the horrors.
    Great use of the wordle words Mike.

  6. Difficult to say “lovely” about a rich dark poem… but the language is lovely.. the darkness as thick and fragrant as espresso…

  7. brenda w says:

    Beautiful rhyme flows with natural rhythm through the piece. I love it, especially the last stanza. Strong write, Mike.

  8. Scribbler says:

    You definitely were able to take these words and make them your own! This was so real I felt as if I was looking straight into the thoughts of this man. Incredibly well done.

  9. Mike, we’ve talked a lot about your background. I want to commend you, as did Viv, for “walking the mile” in an inmate’s shoes. New fish are like catnip to some hard-timers, and I had a hard time reading this, especially after having lived in Attica, NY, but sometimes the difficult reads are the ones that stay with you. That’s certainly true here. Thanks, Amy

    • Mike Patrick says:

      I know you have made it your business to learn more about the souls wandering around in prison than I have. My visits were for interrogations. All you’ve done was for humanitarian reasons. You will probably never understand how remarkable that makes you.

  10. Mary says:

    Mike, this is a very vivid picture of what it must feel like to walk into prison, knowing that it will be one’s home for many years to come. And I admire your use of rhyme!

    • Mike Patrick says:

      I had the opportunity to enter the Missouri State Prison in Jefferson City a couple of times before it was closed. It was the model for this poem. It scared me to death. It was old and broken then, reminding me more of a place of torture that a prison. My son-in-law worked there for a short time, but didn’t have the heart for it. I don’t know how anyone could have the heart to work there.

  11. pmwanken says:

    Mike…finally getting around to reading some of the other wordles. We both wrote about wasted souls…but as I mentioned in my reply to your comment on mine, souls not under the granite marker still have the chance of being saved. As always, Mike, I love your ability to write in rhyme and meter no matter what the subject matter. Well done. ~Paula

  12. Mike, Nice rhythm to this piece. I noticed your reply to TheMsLvh, and recently my husband told me about a guy who stole a dollar to go to jail. Good heavens.


    • Mike Patrick says:

      It’s true. I believe it was here in St. Louis. Elderly man walked into a bank and demanded a dollar. Then he waited for the police to arrive. I don’t recall what his medical problems were.

  13. Deborah says:

    A granite tomb, ooh you could feel the resignation, brilliant.
    … and thank you for the lovely welcome :o)

  14. Great use of the words. Well done 🙂

  15. Nanka says:

    Great fluidity and the poem flowed effortlessly unhindered straight into a prison cell Mike!!
    “The revolutions of the sun,
    which cleansed his blackened heart of crime,
    became scratch marks upon cracked walls,
    which danced within the light of time.”
    Love the clear, easy expression of ideas;,…. and I like the use of ‘revolution of the sun’ for passing days which I was contemplating too 🙂 You have me locked behind the bars 🙂

    • Mike Patrick says:

      Thank you Nanka. This one did not come easy. Any fluidity came from editing oil. The theme was automatic, and the words were perfect for the theme, but the meter took forever.

  16. 1sojournal says:

    I didn’t notice the wordle words. That makes for a good piece of writing. Your poem is vivid and clear and suits the words with ease and good flow.


  17. Susannah says:

    “a stranger to this granite tomb
    of choking ash and wasted souls.”

    What wonderfully descriptive lines. Such strong imagery here! You have really captured this well, I could almost see it!

    Well written, the wordle words just disappeared into the ‘story’.

  18. Irene says:

    Mike I love that your poems reflect upon your life’s career. This poem hovers on the edge, and the most striking thing to me is

    No hint
    of desperation in his eyes;
    he quietly began his stint.

  19. Rekha says:

    You showed a glimpse in the mind of a seasoned criminal arriving at his in-laws home (as is called in pun, in India sometimes) …well written.

  20. Traci B says:

    Great use of the wordle in a unique theme, Mike. I wondered how you would know so much about prisons, and then I read some of your replies to the comments. We’re told to write about what we know, and you’ve done an excellent job of that.

  21. nan says:

    Strong poem. I learned some new terms. This didn’t feel “wordlish” at all. Nicely done. I haven’t gotten to this Wordle this week. I still hope to, but if not, onto next Sunday!

  22. Mr. Walker says:

    Mike, I like “no hint / of desperation in his eyes” – that might come with time, after the initial shock wears off. And kudos for your use of “screw” – you mined those wordle words for all they were worth and came up with a wonderful poem.


  23. Mike says:

    A great use of the wordle words Mike.
    My Dad used to be a ‘screw’ here in the UK, as you can imagine he had many a tale to tell.
    A strong and descriptive read Mike. Thanks.

  24. Cathy says:

    Terrible sad words, especially the last stanza.

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