There are children behind metal bars
who play with balls made of barbed wire,
obstinate in their desire to cajole an ounce of pity from the warden watching them
from his ugly tower ringed with
Small bones make good kindling.
The warden sips his dark bubbles and
smiles at the bluebird who perches on his meaty arm,
wondering how garrulous it will be today.
“Hush,” the wind whispers,
murmuring in through the half-open window.
But the warden cannot hear
because he likes to listen to the
he used to preach at the guards.
He has saved them in a jar and lets them fly around the tower unhindered and unheeded.
So, the children remain
in the hot melting yard,
surrounded by asphalt and chain link,
sluggishly chasing each other around the edges of the cage,
remembering the days
where they weren’t wax candles,
burning to the ground,
forgotten and quiet.
One day soon
the warden will kill the bird
because he cannot control the sounds that erupt from its beak.
Then he will storm from the tower
made of ersatz gold,
his small feet pattering down the spiral staircase,
intent on finding a creature he can control
(which he will fail at as well).
And the children will be left in the caged yard,
patrolled by guards who no longer understand the rhythms of speech and who do not sleep.
The children will slowly sink to their knees
and the calescent tar will suck them down, down, under,
until they no longer think of anything else
except how good it feels to stop breathing the
– Saratoga Schaefer, written January 2020