Read a poem, talk about it, read it again.

Small Illuminations from REFUSE TO DISAPPEAR w/Special Guest Tara Betts

6/11/2022

Connor and Jack are joined by special guest Tara Betts to discuss the poem "Small Illuminations" from her forthcoming collection REFUSE TO DISAPPEAR. They discuss the legacy of Margaret Taylor-Burroughs, the realities of incarceration, and how the collection REFUSE TO DISAPPEAR grew over time.

Get a copy of REFUSE TO DISAPPEAR, here.

Small Illuminations
By: Tara Betts

I.
Albert is a gentle tower.
His arms arched over tabletop
like bridge beams or girders.

Even if he does not understand
everything he reads, he smiles
like a good kid, like the kid he
probably was 30-some-years
ago when he was in the wrong
car with the wrong people
at the wrong time that he will
never get back.

II.
The attention to detail
borders on flawless.
Unscuffed white sneakers,
perfected lined fades
tucked under precisely
folded skullies immaculate
with what you got as a
clean, hard-fought pride.

III.
One week, I bring
crisp folders,
a bundle of sharpened pencils
with full pink erasers, round
and soft as a doll’s blush.
They rub away small errors,
clearing smudges from a page
like an actual correction.

IV.
I look for Albert’s easy grin first
when I walk into the concrete block
classroom. Locked in the education
building, relieved that the broken
window denies the cold like a plea.
One brother in blues with thermal sleeves
peeking out of the dull faded ocean
of cloth arching over his torso.

A cellmate hands me the slightly worn,
safeguarded, staple-bound book of poems—
the signature resolute and matching letters
of a poet’s name who strolled into prison
like a mother without fear of any child.

Margaret Burroughs—more than a decade
since she left the cell of her body. I clutch
her poems knowing how they passed
from her hands like a prayer. We both smile—
small illuminations in a dark hell—when
the cellmate says Albert wanted you to have this.
He got transferred. He knew you’d keep it safe.
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