My Remote – S. S.


Last Friday I spoke to my brother Robert. He told me my Uncle Johnny died and mentioned everyone who attended the wake. I sensed he’d been reluctant to let me know because the first thing he asked was if our “mother had told me about Uncle Johnny?”

I asked him how old Uncle Johnny was? And he said, 61, he died young. I asked if he knew the exact date our uncle died? He said no, but Momma knows. 

I’ve lost so many family members since I’ve been in the ADX Control Unit that I no longer know how to feel about deaths anymore. I hurt less from the fact that my uncle died than the fact I won’t get to know him in adulthood. Have a real conversation with him. I’m perplexed by the idea that my brother attended our uncle’s wake but couldn’t tell me which day he died on. A detail perhaps lost in the bustle of life. I don’t know where our uncle is buried because the conversation with my brother quickly jumped from subject to subject. We covered three months in fifteen minutes.

Today is my mother’s birthday and also marks the eleven year point of my incarceration. Yes, I was arrested on September 21, 2010. When I spoke to her today she said my uncle died on September 10, 2021. And this is the essence of my experience in solitary confinement, late information, witnessing life always in the past, never in the present, and numb to that reality. 

I tell myself I’m supposed to be positive about this. But how am I supposed to be positive about the sixth family member who has died in the past six years? I will write a poem. I will write a poem. I will write: 

Dear Uncle Johnny,
People are dyin’ now
Prison “got real” long ago
No more cryin’ now
No more feelings left to show
All I know is pain
Hasn’t rained on my chains
in I don’t know how long
The volume of my suffering on mute
Read my anguish in Closed Caption
Tempted to put on my headphones
One dude’s tv is at full blast
24 hours a day
The other dude screams at
His tv 24 hours a day
Static in the silence
Outside of myself
I know I must
Listen to my silence
And there you are
A few lucid memories
I see love in your eyes
I hope you see it in mine
It is only now that I cry
Eleven days alter
Here the pain comes
Shakin’ my plates like
a Hatian earthquake
Tryed not to judge my
Loved ones. No ego.
Nothing y’all could do
To block me from seeing you
Somebody ask Aunt Patricia
If I stopped, hugged and
Kissed her on hill top
I had the newest J’s on
But couldn’t spot her a dollar
We laughed, I popped my collar
I’d see Delores downtown Tacoma
One time she said,
Poody you know I got HIV.
You don’t mind?
She hadn’t showered for days
A perfume of heartbreak and rain
I said, no; hugged her
You are my family.
She cried and thanked me
This how I feel too
About you, Uncle Johnny
With my suffering on mute I close my caption.

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