Gun Shaped State Off Safety

Art by Amy Wheaton

i saw my first confederate flag
from a metal wire window seat
on an uncorrected correctional bus
on the way to a county called Perry
a small town that was once part of Rosewood territory
where parabellum meant slave rebellion
and antebellum was a bunch of slave men
building prisons for prisoners
on what was once a plantation
67 counties in this great burnt stake state of Florida
and 143 facilities
i mean, institutions
            i mean, compounds
                        i mean, warehouses
                                    i mean…a stock exchange for those in chains
you know, on warmer days
palm trees speak body language warnings
with scented sex on the beach sea breeze
hard to tell though if the green leafy branches
do or don’t welcome you upon arrival
when hellos and farewells share similar waving gestures
i think…maybe…sort of, sometimes
okay most of the time
other places in the U.S. view us
the way a king views his jester
but that’s the point of view of battered prison bus pressure
travelling with tight baby bear trap shackles
biting on worn out fragile ankles
just last twilight,
they carried amendment 13 out in a stretcher
then i awoke to the sound of the second amendment
exercising its rights during a high school pep rally
PoP-PoP-PoP-PoP-PoP quiz kids
getting past first base isn’t a problem these days
the real test, is making it home safe
crib, class, cubicle, court, case, cage, cell, casket, coffin
can’t you see, they all start with “C,” like corrections, or closing
better keep your eyes open
but don’t dare stare at the down south sundown
it’ll shoot your eye out kid like a classic Christmas Story
eclipse your vision like an Overtown junkie’s pupils dilating
or Becky overdosing during her opioid crisis
pharmacy messiah saviors
i’ve seen needles part red seas in half too
everyone’s exodus has a different exit
i’m guessing that’s cool when you’re considered animal
so don’t search for your rights
they went left upon conviction
so do the stop lights when you leave the city
lights you might never see again
depending how deep they lead you into the Panhandle’s frying pan
where spider slave senses sizzle
and those baby bear trap bites start chomping bone gristle
once upon a cliche
i wondered during menacing minutes in traffic
while being trafficked
how many curious bias irises in neighboring lanes
jay-walk towards our squinting bus windows
they really can’t see our inhumane pound puppy faces
but their imagination can
painting us hideous
like a scene from American Me or Hannibal
so i assume they assume
we’re all murderers and rapists
kind of like pilgrims
or atheist devils cause one of our many gods
didn’t spare us his rod during our courtroom crucifixion
that thought walks on water
as a Puerto Rican, or Cuban, or Dominican
(it’s hard to say cause they say we all look alike down here)
says to a Jamacan, or Haitian, or Black American
(they say they all look alike too)
“Jew no wha i meen”
while ranting something about guards not being gods
but governing us like politicians…
i blink twice in general response
thinking of so many ways to die handcuffed
in these gorgeous Florida beaches
hammerhead jury pool sharks nailing juveniles  
better life guard yourself swimming in those shallow waters”
mumbles the manipulating crime rate
these city pirate police will harpoon you in the face
they don’t need bait to catch you
it’s always skin color hunting season over here
blood red state
with dazzling club-light nightlife
where it’s not hard to catch a natural life
that’s an unfinished sentence
where four concrete walls make good priests if you’re into confessions
it doesn’t matter though 
in this system, they’ll spell check your opinion
then use it against you
once we hit the 80s
and Reagan’s frying egg propaganda went commercial
penal profit skyrocketed
making men disappear like magicians
a slight of Uncle Sam hand trick
tagging men with numbers
with so much shit on their mind they need plumbers 
so someone can plunge dirty money
out of the barrel of this gun shaped state
safety’s off in Florida
semi-automatic attitudes in these parts
but beware, they might not like your kind “round hea”
trigger fingers have strong biceps
it’s prison profit before college prospects
“have you ever seen a bullet pick up a book and read”
makes you wonder why they call extended clips
first four letters of a presidential campaign
hmmm…must be in the palm readers’ spelling bee
being caucasian is a coupon
if you’re not black light on white fabric
stay off Trump’s golf course
they’ll hole in one you with a nine iron if your canvas has color
not the demoCRIP or the reBLOODican type
but the beautiful black brown alien kind
who would’ve thought Florida would be so sci-fi
I.N.S. kicking in doors in six cities in Dade
home invading a hard working un invasive species of humans
sending them back to their planets
only American dirt is considered Earth
Floridian Reptilians
Ecosystems evolving into Egosystems
you gotta love it though
there’s a dance machine beneath its feet
can you hear it, this land has rhythm
built by Indians before minimum wage
what a Hard Rock life of a price
on week nights
you can roll through the city like a pair of dice
cause everything’s a gamble
Ocean Drive poker faces
nothing but diamonds and spades chasing hearts
making them run sideways down glittery boulevards
it’s not easy escaping desire
as biting baby bear traps keep gnawing ankles
it’s not a bloodhound or a greyhound
just a prison tour bus making its rounds
wonder what planet we’re going to next
don’t expect Southern hospitality
and if you want space
this state will give you a galaxy
best to keep moving when you face a confederate flag on the moon
they’re into shooting stars
a lot of snow birds fly right into cages during the winter season
it’s not our fault they didn’t see the bars
behind the metropolitan Maybelline
or the palm tree forewarnings waving them away
it’s the glamour i guess
marvelous women dressed in seduction
big hitters, big tippers, major figures
foreign cars (not alien space crafts of course)
cuban cigar fragrance
happy every hour bars 
good pot melting pot
tequila shots and kill shots
pill pops, delinquent cops, and hip-hop hippies
half country/half city
slim mercy and quarter short pity
this land is magic
full of cuffed secrets and identities
it’s a one night stand of a good time
a big bang of creativity
till the palm trees stop waving
the bus stops at a plantation gate
and regret sits in your pocket like loose change
and realization sets in
Florida had you chained in from the beginning
but you still love it
might even miss it
cause you know Florida
has a revolution brewing somewhere in it
…just not today

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