September 11, 2001 before morning-slow I move Julan hollers come come see the world trade center's exploding she's not serious no one would make that up would they? maybe live on TV video mantra replay: plane crash replay: collapse slow motion, dying morning no, not a made-for-TV movie not a disaster film not Hollywood special effects one tower falls the other follows do chickens come home to roost? enormity crashes dazed disbelief (chickens won't roost here again pigeons either) I, a political prisoner, can conceive why but comprehension is not complicity I look around me I know nothing I know too much there is no answer in death nor in dying I know soon others will die dark smoke spreads cinders of wrath rise the eagle's talons spread hungry for revenge (eyes locked on the shocking scene a Muslim sister whispers they will blame the Muslims) I know many will feed the eagle the Palestinians? (Palestinians are always suspect: they suffer) Muslims? Arabs? many will die red upon the land I can't comprehend men who commit suicide taking civilians with them (a u.s. postal worker Columbine high school boys a man at McDonald's all-American suicide killers) civilians used as warheads I shudder and walk away from death to my cell Bich Kim runs in if there's a world war three they will shoot all the prisoners, won't they? I shake my head I don't think so but you, political prisoners like you, won't they? I hope not (question marks the corners of my mouth: what do I know about the fine print) I turn to sweep the floor find rythms of the ordinary The Order: 9:00 AM PDT a tap I turn a guard come with me I won't return today I stand before the captain we must lock you up for your own safety (not for my safety) you're intelligent you know why I speculate, no not for my safety you must be locked up just for your safety I am stripped naked ID card confiscated everything taken I need my glasses! keep the glasses I keep a neutral face handcuffed behind the back clad in bile yellow for isolation and flip-flops I keep outrage wrapped within my fists I swallow anger metal clangs swallow sound the concrete cocoon swallows me The "SHU": Special Housing Unit "there was an old woman she lived in a shoe" what did she do? 9/11 no prisoner may speak to you you may not speak to any prisoner 9/12 overheard voices there are terrorists here who are the terrorists? silence, everyone behind her door listens 9/14 a legal call small relief: it's political -- Washington -- not something i did 9/17 no more calls no visits no mail until further notice incommunicado i hang from a winding string winding in this cocoon i breathe deep the air isn't good here (from outside the walls Susan yells you are not alone) i breathe deeper Sunday i get a radio: KPFA lifeline Sikhs dead, detainees disappeared political prisoners buried deeper incommunicado i remember another September 11: Chile '73 more than 3,000 dead tortured assassinated disappeared a CIA-supported coup (the WTC bombers not-yet-born) many people there still mourn let us mourn all the dead and the soon-to-die i worry about the prisoners isolation sucks at the spirit i am furious: inferred association held hostage in place of men with u.s. weapons and CIA training an infernal joke the puppet masters laugh i laugh to stay sane before i explode in irony's flames we are hostages to blood-thirsty oil men ready to splatter deserts with daisy-cutters their collateral damage dead mothers and children dead mother earth dead daisies (hasn't this happened before? u.s. cavalry and smallpox blankets special forces and blanket bombing) (Susan is back she taps on the wall: you are not alone) i walk around the edges how many walk on edges? what edges do the Palestinians walk? cold radiates whitewashed walls press against my edges suspend animation no butterflies to break out no silken thread to weave sweet dreams panic rises in my throat thick white choking cold so cold i swing hope on a thread a transparent sliver it crashes against the cinderblocks i drop frozen chrysalis cold into a coffin box Night i lay down on suspect blankets a Cyclops light pins me onto the metal cot an altar for vengeful gods metal restraints for hands and feet "just in case" the suicide cell has ghosts desperate women lain here chained four-pointed to command composure sacrificed to voyeur visions through the glass starkly through a burqa window i don't want to think of i i meditate i think of other politicals behind wires and walls i remember the assaulted the accidental the collaterally damaged killed, corrected, coerced i remember: the u.s. funds the fundamentalists Muslims Christians Zionists self-righteous missiles of mayhem and retribution i remember Afghani women held hostage inside indigo cocoons cells smaller than a confessional box my veil is this cell Dispatches from a Political Prisoner i will put on no other except the veil of sleep the light, damn the light the Cyclops spies i toss between the tomb-thick walls how long will this go on? will my bones break into ice shards or will they desiccate stranded in this dark cocoon at last i doze till dawn the Cyclops watches clanging keys, slamming metal traps shift change daylight creeps inside i rise: i must seek cycles inside without clocks or mirrors without all but i The Weekend a glacier, daylight advances imperceptibly a plank of light teeters on the edge of board-faced windows travels obliquely across then it's gone warmth fades fast the food trap opens cold eggs the color of our clothes plunk -- weekend brunch i swallow in silence silence flees before sudden cacophony two women beat plastic bowls on metal doors we want rec we want rec the sun is out we want out my head is wrapped in metallic clanger bang bang bang i stay silent i bite my lip hours pass: shift change 2:00 the sun drops fast behind the wall finally: who wants recreation? I do me too let me out first voices reach through the metal doors food traps clank handcuffs click one by one women are led to wire cages joy rings louder than the chains i wait no guard comes i break silence you didn't ask me disembodied denial echoes through the walls you can't go with the others wait not my decision i will miss the sundrops "Perchance to Dream" night comes i fall exhausted into sleep i dream of Dresden Hanoi Baghdad whistles scream walls fall apart in waves Dali deserts watches tick waterdrip dream shift: swords of steel glint against the sky a swarm and puff Dispatches from a Political Prisoner dark blood drops bituminous birds bank spread-eagled free fall ashes ashes they all fall down dark flashes cherry splashes on concrete Babel towers collapse in crying heaps a curtain rises gray covers gladiators draped across the stage i wake cold-throated what time is it? my limbs locked beneath a concrete rockslide is this my tomb falling on me? my chest is piled rock-heavy bodies rise from the shallows of my breath graze my eyes and flee across the desert scape shadow prints dissipate am i awake? the Cyclops stabs my eye i must be awake i wrap a scratchy towel around my face i escape electrified night into sightlessness a ghost voice wails what time is it? a deep male boom 1:24, go to sleep no, turn on the radio, talk to me no! no! please no, my eyes blink inside their blind little Brueghel men dance wooden-shoe notes ruthless on my sleep sound streams woman's babble pools beneath the door i hunker under the winding sheet does she stop talking or do i descend? i don't remember shift change shift change guards come and go officials pass by peering into our crypt-cages taking notes, verifying our "safety" Monday, September 24 the captain appears we may release you today after 2:00 2:00 comes and goes the shift changes i wait and wonder: will other politicals be released today i wait hope is the moment's thief don't wait at last: Buck roll out i leap a jack-in-the-box ready ready the metal key clangs just before the 4:00 count i gasp relief and hurry through before the gates slam shut and i am left below Eurydice whom Orpheus glimpsed a moment too soon i step out a four o'clock unfolding, fuchsia in the shading light back into the routine prisoner's plightMarilyn Buck (December 2001)
MARILYN BUCK is a political prisoner serving an 80-year sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin, California. She was convicted of helping Assata Shakur to escape from prison in 1979, and a series of other political actions protesting U.S. government policy. While in prison, Buck earned a B.A. with a focus in psychology, and is currently working on a Master's degree in Poetics. Her chapbook, Rescue the Word, was published in 2001. Her poem, "Too Dark," was awarded first place in the PEN prison writing competition. She is also the author of several articles of political analysis. "Incommunicado" and other writing by Buck appear in Joy James (ed.), Imprisoned Intellectuals.
MORE: MARILYN BUCK made her transition from this life on August 3, 2010, after being buried in the tombs of this government for over 33 years and receiving medical treatment too late for it to be effective.