THE BLUEBIRD OF SADNESS
By Charles Patrick Norman
The prison bus, the Bluebird of Sadness, greets us
inside the fenced sallyport gate with rear door open,
beckoning like the black maw of the Beast, trudge now
up the three flimsy metal steps to your fate.
Fifty men pack into the Bluebird struggling with our
mesh bags of meager belongings: hopeless trial transcripts,
Dear John letters, flip-flops, empty deodorants, Gideon Bibles
given out by do-gooders like magic protective talismans,
stacking ourselves in broken seats, rusted shelves without
upholstery, steel grates bolted over windows, no escape,
shipped like UPS, boxes with leg irons, signed for,
except UPS deliverymen don’t pack pistols and shotguns.
The old diesel wheezes, the guard/driver grinds gears,
stomps the brakes, laughs at laws of inertia staggering
those left standing, catching their balance on seat backs
and shoulders, bracing themselves for the eight-hour
transport to another anonymous fenced-in pasture, a prison
not unlike the last one, or the ones before, or after.
The heaving, rocking Bluebird of Sadness groans, complain
up the incline interstate entrance ramp, melds into
a racing river of rubber and steel cans filled with
citizens traveling in parallel lives, staring straight ahead,
talking on cell phones or nodding their heads to silent
music beamed from satellites, oblivious to their destinies,
Or the Bluebird of Sadness packed with lost souls on
their way to Purgatory, different destinations, yet the same.
We dread/desire the crash, the out-of-control Bluebird
of Sadness tumbling along the highway, scattering speeding
citizens to the Four Winds like ninepins or dandelions,
the blue-clad, chained sacrificial rams rotating like plaid
shirts, socks, blouses, trousers inside the clothes dryer,
padlocked, unable to escape the inevitable flames.
We plant our heads against window grates to get a better look
at cars ad citizens zipping past us to the left, an occasional
glimpse of legs and thighs that generates hoots and catcalls from men
whose only solace comes from their imaginings or other men.
Bladders fill and men form lines in the aisle to a metal funnel
mounted waist-high at the back of the bus, connected to a tube that
drains through a hole in the floor, dribbling noxious urine
onto the pavement at sixty miles per hour, Lexus, BMW, Benz,
Nissan, Kia and Chevrolet plowing through yellow mist unaware.
Swerves and surges tumble one lost soul from his attempted
perch over the funnel, spraying others, curses, shoves,
and fists swinging, grumbles, buttons up his wet trousers
(no zippers allowed in prison), staggers past other full bladders
in the aisle, takes his rusty, broken seat, awaits the coming fences,
open gates drawing in the Bluebird of Sadness and her
load of flesh, to feed the monster, Moloch, once again.