An illustration of a man exiting a prison cell. His clothing is shown changing from an orange jumpsuit to street clothes. He holds a black garbage bag in one hand. Outside the cell, many white balloons drift through the air.

Illustration by Victor Bizar Gómez

Through the penitentiary gate, he is released. 
He can see his sister come to collect him,
a woman walking across a hot black sea
made miraculous by the wonder of his freedom.

She wears the broken cheekbones of their childhood,
her smile a scattering of gulls.

He walks to her car slowly with his
plastic bag of nothing, released
into this current, the one he dreamed a decade,
each waiting day a small chamber in a nautilus shell.
The air touches every part of him.
The sun knows him now but could not in that place.

In her Ford Fiesta, his sister lights his cigarette from hers,
and they breathe the gray privacy of smoke,
hold the silence between them, gathering its shapely seconds.

They reach his mother’s rented house: cracked walk
dividing the sand-colored lawn in two, balloons
tied on bright ribbons to each railing, to the eaves of the roof
to the handlebars of his nephews’ motocross bikes.
They are everywhere like jellyfish, trembling and harmless.

Each living member of his family holds one bobbing on a length
of gift wrap ribbon: cousins, nephews and nieces, aunts and uncles,
his mother, and his daughter, who is thirteen and has a lock
of hair glistening and sprayed into a tendril on her forehead.

His mother begins to run on her heavy legs.
Shy of him, his daughter watches the white balloons tug in the light.
He stays in the car. Its closed windows and cell of heat.

Sun glitters off of every surface containing him.
We’ll go to the ocean tomorrow, his sister is saying,
doors unlocking with sharp snaps.
You can collect shells again when you have somewhere to put them.




No comments yet.

Add a Comment

Also in this Issue

From the Director: Tents

Editor's Note: Shelter


A Temple Between Us



For the People

At the End of the Tunnel

A Haven, A Refuge

Central Heating


People, Places, Things

Discussion Questions and Further Reading: Shelter