“The Prison Courtyard,” oil on canvas, by Vincent van Gogh, 1890.

by Katharyn Howd Machan

about his sadness.
About how the moon hung full
that morning, every morning

his fist felt like a beast
tethered and tied against its need
to howl and hit and hurt.

About how he needed
the good dope, too, and how she
stared at the gleam in his eyes

with mockery, goddammit, taunts
he wasn’t full man enough
to bend the bars of their gray

days, this city of sunless grins.
About how good it felt to take
her pussy, her twat, her tight dark

hole and turn her inside out
like a star (oh, his teacher talked
of similes) and how he hasn’t

seen a sky from edge to edge
since somehow he got put in here
where metal clangs and cotton clings

and generous souls who offer classes
have to leave their belts with buckles
behind them at the wordlessly locked door.

omega man

Katharyn Howd Machan is the author of 38 collections of poetry, most recently What the Piper Promised. She is a full professor at Ithaca College where she has taught writing since 1977. She is also Tompkins County’s first poet laureate. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and textbooks, and she has edited three thematic anthologies, most recently, with Split Oak Press, a tribute collection celebrating the inspiration of Adrienne Rich.