He called the six months he was in jail
his spiritual retreat even though many of the details
are grim, blood curdling. Best to hang

out alone in his cell where he reads
The Little Prince 30 times, teaches 
himself to juggle oranges he’d hidden

under his gray metal bed. He invented
a folded paper tree using
a Reader’s Digest & made tiny

ornaments from candy bar
wrappings. One of the problems
with jail is social

management. Who’s in charge? In Maricopa
County it’s the Aryan Brotherhood. The guards
can’t control the rumbles

& spikes of interaction. AB can decide
for you—no integration & if you refuse
their hierarchy one of them will mess

you up bad. After an AB facedown
he came up with a clever
strategy. He told the guards

he was going to hurt
himself or one of the ABs
so they put him in solitary with a hard black

camping mat with a texture like duct
tape. He was safe
& could chant & wail

out loud but people worried
he was losing it. Susan
made an SOS call to prison

outreach & his new surprise
friend came—Rabbi Ernie—who got
to know him chatting

about courage through the food
slot. He convinced
him to stop spooking

the guards with nonsensical
chanting & helped him transfer to the psych
pod where AB activity was minimal

& he spent his time inventing
games with scraps of torn
paper & memorizing blessings

from a Hebrew prayer book, a gift
from Ernie. No matter that he didn’t know
Hebrew, the language was as comforting

as a handknit sweater. He embraced
& believed every word, sure that Rabbi
Ernie, with his jokester

self,  gave him attitude
& armor enough to face the gargoyles
of solitary, Ernie

was the only one
God could trust with the toilsome
task of getting him out.