Under a Sky of Cliché


The way this place feels today makes me hate clichés, or at least to resent the people that came up with the cliché first.  It’s a “pressure cooker,” but I couldn’t say that without the quotation marks.  It’s a “powder keg” but, well, ditto.


Maybe I can say it this way: the barometric pressure is higher on this side of the cinderblock by a large measure.  For some reason, when conditions stretch taut like this, the staff goes zip-lipped and the youth get even quieter.  I’ve heard it said a lot of times and I’ve seen it played out a few: the “calm before the storm,” which in some cases is also a precarious calm after an interrupted storm (a quelled gang fight; a lightning quick jab to a staff member).


One has got to imagine what it’s like to have dozens of teenaged kids with both diagnosed and undiagnosed psychological and emotional disorders, most of whom have never see one another before but some of whom have sworn to kill one another on the outside, where there are choices. Outside, where kids with bleeding wounds can fire their pain into any number of containers: the flat line embrace of a drug, the cathartic spark of a sucker punch, or, even, the soothing presence of a priest, an uncle, a friend.  But in here all outlets are sealed, except for the handful of kids that take the leap and let themselves be frog-marched down to Echo Hall where us soft-edged poets try to get them to expose their vulnerabilities and speak the language of a new strength.


This is what I want to say: over this environment of deadbolts and shackles, of closed circuit television and steel doors and proscribed and prescribed movements, a pregnant sky often hangs, past due to drop storm.  That’s why everyone gets quiet and watchful.  There is an inverse relationship between the number of words spoken and the number of times eyes shift.  And here we are, asking for words.  Asking for the real.  Asking for something more than mere communication, for disclosure; asking for a kind of shouted song in the cacophony of silence, the kind that will bring the sun rather than split the purple clouds.


It’s a delicate fucking dance.

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