Poem: “Prison Yuletide”

by Taj Alexander Mahon-Haft

“Prison Yuletide”

Warden humbugged the doors up tight
Hot chocolate, hugs, and mistletoe stay out!
No cheer or candy canes breathe here.
No winter, festive, or wonderland fit between the bars.
No colors, twinkles, scents sneak beneath the fence,
even gifts exchanged violate basic rules.
Trees, angels, stars, it matters not,
season’s spirits and symbols need not apply,
But one subdued, shackled service can we see.
Yuletide trimmings, holiday tidings
must be checked at the door.
If Stalin and the Grinch procreated,
that’d be the Christmas mascot here.
Claiming “security,” they scrooge us every year. Continue reading

POEM: “Unconditional Love (godmother)”

Taj 1

by Taj Alexander Mahon-Haft

in dialogue with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

She rises before dawn on a Sunday
just to catch an early Southbound train.

She makes 800 miles round trip
just a single day
for a mere three hours together
then says after the initial squeeze
it’s already worth it.

She hires a driver from the station
just to avoid getting lost, getting late
pays him to idle the visitation hours
watching Southern asphalt bake in August swamp simmer.

She shirks off thanks
looks deep in my eyes
dusts the backs of my hands
(that she just won’t let go)
with tender kisses that seed tomorrows
into my pores.

Taj 2She comes
simply shows
to visit at Greensville
(mid-70’s-Soviet-chic, turreted hell)
just to commingle our talk with presence and affection.

She cares little about frisks,
even less about growling coyotes
posturing in uniforms and scowls
flashing teeth and gnashing bad ‘tudes,
and not one bit about the sharp summer glare
reflecting off surround-sound razor wire, cuffs, and chains.

She enthusiastically proclaims
over the thrill of posing
just for a standard prison photo op
despite the full senior-prom-phony grins
and my state-issued, elastic-wasted attire.


POEM: “for whom?”

by Taj Alexander Mahon-Haft

in dialogue with Luke 6:34-37 and Luke 17:3-4

Taj 3how can
this land of
uniquely mandatory minimums,
third strikes
called by referees blind to circumstance,
truth in sentencing,
threats by bully prosecutors,
most of all
no take backs
one time only sales
American exceptionalism
exceptionally American
uncruel and usual
death sentences
call itself
land of second chances?