Contents Previuos Next

Featured Poet - Toni Flynn


Yes. In the beginning there was suffering of a sort,
though nothing like the pungent smoke of sorrows
suffered by my sisters who faced the soldiers and their guns.
No cigarette burns seared my flesh. I was not raped,
my children were not torn from my embrace.
No beloved lies lost in a shallow unmarked grave.
In fact, I bear no actual scars. My body is shaken
but not severed from my soul. My spirit is
not broken, only bent a little under the indignities.

ìI should like to love my country and still love justice.î
Bring to mind the denial of freedom for speaking truth,
for praying on a particular side of a particular line,
for refusing to replace peace with politics and fear.
Bring before your eyes: strip searches, shackles, handcuffs, chains;
too many women raging in too small a cage; television
noise and fluorescent lights glaring down past the dark
moods of weary guards; boiled beans with white bread,
iceberg lettuce and the absence of eucharistic consolations.

I am still confined byómust rely uponóbelted keepers
of keys for all my needs. It is quieter in my new cell. Now the loneliness
seeps in, grows like mold and mildew on wet walls, informing
my aching heart as it beats beneath the bosom of day long boredom:
this is the tedium of doing time. Or, ìI should like to love my country
and still love justice.î At night things are different. I dream
vivid dreams of hunting and gathering deep in a rain forest
where foraging through foliage means a way to reach my sisters
who managed to escape the guns. Is it only a dream?

I follow the luscious scent of their courage while the faint aroma
of liberation penetrates my pillow, beckons me to keep going.

Toni Kathleen Flynn
Crisp County Jail, September 6, 2002. Day 56.

For those who knock, the door will be opened
Matthew 7:8

After 80 days sweltering in my cell, and humid heart pangs,
a merciful fog envelops the crepe myrtle outside.

I view this gray gift in the dawnís light, framed
within the tiny pane allotted me, the prisoner.

Now! Finally! Grief can be loosened. Let it fall.
It doesnít happen. Somewhere else, rain pours, pools, dissipates.

This fog enfolds while sorrow unmasks, deciding what
to do next. I am sick of chains, seized with wanton desire.

I long to shatter my shackled grief into fragments,
run to Your door ñ pounding, pleading Let me in!

Yes, for You, I would beg in the fashion of all fugitives.
Solace: These pieces of my grief in Your hands. Hiding

in Your depths. Weeping. Reconstituting my soul. Where else
could I find Sanctuary as sweet as my containment is now bitter?


We are called not to houses, not even cathedrals,
but to wilderness, to live outside in the space of witness,
to walk with the poor, with each other.

This sacrament of accompaniment is the only worthy
pilgrimage. Listen to me ñ it is for everyone, though only a few
will answer, know joy in sacrifice, hold hands in solidarity

with the cross and in the communion of hearts
(pause here and whisper ìThe Body of Christî).
Most will turn back inside to bolt their locks,
thinking they are spared.

I shall raise the children. High, high
laughing for joy in the sun.
ñ Yang Lian

My 99th day.
Things look bleak.
Days grow short.
Timeís still long.
I know it was all for a good cause
but this jail is cold, cramped,
devoid of sunflowers.
No one kneels in reverence.
No one stands tall either.
Suns rise. Set. Rise. Set.
Shadows fall. New arrivals
kick and scream. This
causes the corridors to echo
pain in unlovely ways that only
captives comprehend. Into this mystery,
the Corporal of the day
hands me a note:
ìBorn, October 19th, 2002
Andrew James, 8lbs 10oz
Father, Mother, Baby Ö
all are wellî.
Light floods my cell
My grandchild!
I want to break out.
Grab Keys. Unlock everyoneís misery.
Take all the women home.
What better cure
than to cradle new life?

Opal take on the System

Some sleep away the hours
Some pace, scream, curse, cheat at cards
and win someone elseís Nutty Butter Bar.
But nobody ñ no-body! do time
like Opal do time. She just a little
bitty thing, dimpled cheeks,
wide toothy grin, black, corn-rowed hair.
Voice that could calm a stormy sea
or on another day, set a river raging.
She done got her GED two year ago
at a different jail. She pray over every meal.
And at night before lights out, she pray then too.
She sit with herself, read Bible stories.
She trace Greek letters and symbols
from those back pages onto her tablet:
I gonna learn Greek. I gonna be a missionary.
Make sumpin of myself. Gonna get outta here.

Days rolls in and out of the cell block,
like sick snails through stale mud.
The mail donít come on time.
The fan break down. Dinner is cold.
No towel. Opal has a rising.
She mad. Flapping arms. Kicking legs.
Get her plastic cup Bang! Bang!
Against the cage door. She wail;
I dee-prest! I sad, mad and dee-prest!
Opal. She break the cup. She rant,
rave and bruise her fist. Pounding.
Some say she in The Hold now.
Some say she in the hospital.
ìShe crazyî. ìShe sickî.
Me? I say, Bravo Opal!
You a Greek goddess!
You a Missionary on a Mission!
You got outta here!