A poem by Steve Champion (Adisa Kamara) - written in 2006 when he was transferred back to the County jail after a courtroom appearance.
The black and white Orange County Sheriff bus
transports men and women returning
from a tiresome day of courtroom drama
They speak about being detained, being released;
about the tough prison sentence the judges imposed on them.
They are lonesome people,
separated by plexi glass, gates, mesh wire, fear
and a thousand secrets,
bonding with each other,
exchanging booking numbers, smiles, stories
and making connections as quick as speed dating.
The black paint shadows the outer bus windows,
concealing and depriving prisoners of the urban landscape
and bustling social world, within reach.
Seated inches behind me, on the dimly lit bus,
her illumated smile masks a deep sadness
as she freely chats with the other women in her company.
Eager guys hungry for attention of the opposite sex, court her.
Politely dismissing them with the skills of a diplomat,
She keeps quiet.
Our eyes search and meet on dying ground,
transixed into a karma sutra gaze,
and instantly see through her.
She’s translucent, like crystal.
Every word I emit unfurls a layer of her skin,
like daggers piercing a lifetime of lies,
bringing truth to the foreground to be viewed with fresh eyes.
As the rickety bus surges ahead and the unruly captors clamour,
her eyes begin to swell the more I speak,
unleashing a tsunamai of pain
as tears cascade down her courageous cheeks,
unearthing years of struggle, pain and sacrifice.
Her tale is an ancient one,
rooted in the history of women,
past, present and future
who battle to beat back the discrimination and steorotpes
that sought to deny and define them.
Our conversation is transit as a shooting star
but timeless as a work of art.
Part of her has become free
after meeting her other self,
validating her inner core.
I am whisked away from the bus,
with the clinking sounds of leg chains,
tight restraints girding my wrists and waist,
the remembrance of her etched in my mind.
We say our goodbyes.
She promises to write.
Fate gives no assurances of reproducing itself.
But language unites us in a temporal encounter,
And we share an eternal moment.
Poetry, writing & Lessons in Life from San Quentin death row