Soledad and Other Poems


  New York Women’s House of Detention,
  December 1970

  for Angela Davis

though you are their sole suspect

though they capture you on Columbus Day

though their conqueror’s pallor dulls the night’s obsidian pulse

though they smash the whorled tips of your fingers against the ink

though they single you out beyond a doubt

though they lock you away from the others

though inside these walls book is a shackled verb and not a shared

though they hand your beaten body over to another state authority

though they make you move through their thicket of rifles

though your cuffed wrists won’t let you raise your fists

though your shoulders shiver in your jailhouse shift

though your teeth break the chilled silence with drumroll chatter

though your feet turn snowmelt

though the white drifts will bury others

you will not be kept
solitary for long

you will turn salt-pillar steady
elusive moon pool

you will circulate
your smuggled copy of Soledad Brother to your sisters

you will refuse
to shuffle or stumble on your shackled walk

you will say the names of the ones still inside
Helen and Harriet and Vernell and Laura and Amy and Pat and Minnie and Joann

you will know there is nothing singular
about you

you will know you are a compound
word like everybody or underground or elsewhere or blackbird or railroad

in the place where I’m from Soledad is
a word and a sentence

Soledad is the name a woman is given
Soledad is a sentence a woman must serve
for the rest of her life

Soledad is the gavel and the holding pen

Soledad is the person and the state
of being she lives out

Soledad is the letter sent from a locked cell

Soledad is the name we sometimes call
our most holy Virgen

Soledad insists on service to it

Soledad is the sentence
you will spend your life writing


  Jackson State College, May 15, 1970
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