by Gary C

THE GLASS DOOR AT THE END OF THE HALL has two large panes of break-resistant glass, thick but clear through which a window to the world as observed from the library building gives glimpses of the parking lot of the prison, filled with cars and pickup trucks and a barrier to rise and fall as workers and visitors travel to and fro and a track of macadam circling the double-wired fence, tipped with concertina in an effort to keep some in or others out, but even if people can’t do more than peer through the glass door to the wire, macadam, parking lot of automobiles and trucks, to watch the barrier rise for a cop car to enter carrying a culprit in the backseat to be turned out into the compound to look out through the glass…

More and more there is this animal
Looking out through my eyes    

Earlier this week I was taking a break from the tireless efforts to find meaning in the novels and encyclopedia volumes of the library, not much caring for the volumes of law that reside on the shelves, rows upon rows of tomes of legislative acts and desires to tax and circumvent  and punish offenders who will not recognize many of the offenses until they are driven to this place in the back of a caged car, waiting patiently for the barrier to rise. So I ease away from these thoughts, heading down the hall for a glance outside the window to the grounds of the prison, which are lush this early May afternoon with a view of the main visiting gallery on the left, several firebush trees and a crabapple tree resting alongside the building and a concrete path that takes visitors to the high side (lock-down units) and a fence there too to prevent visitors from sprinting across the bright green lawn to chase the robins and catbirds and sparrows, slowly foraging across the stretch of greenery looking for survival, and a tree planted several years back that is full of new limegreen leaves and encircled by flowers that are planted each year by the prison labor crew, in a competent if not tender manner, not knowing the librarian is watching from his stance by the window to the world. Nearer still are two manicured hedge plants rounded by shears and holding the nest of at least one catbird family, its chicks hatched recently, in time for the season of Eastern blessing and arising anew.

When you grow up surrounded by willful ignorance
You have to believe that mercy has its own country,
And that it’s round and borderless

Walking back today which is every day, I stop at the new sight of nature in this sterile confined area, and I am given the insight that even though the walls of pierced wire topped by razors glistening in the sun are perches for the descendants of the dinosaur and some laws are not in dusty drab books of cases of conduct taught in courts and condemned by carrion in black robes, but there is also the law of nature and behavior that is lived in the here and now of life and bravery and loss go with anodyne not given from leaps from hotel balconies but a drop from above.

You just grow wings and rise above it all
Like there where that hawk is circling
Above that strip mall

The sun pelting down this warm afternoon must have coaxed the baby catbird from the safety of the hedge of pointy twigs extruding from the nesting site and the parents were off on a mission to find lunch for the chicks or were singing warnings when out of the sky a red tailed hawk who hangs around the prison looking for mice, stool pigeons and other birds, used its keen eyes to spot the half-feathered morsel on the concrete stoop less than two feet from the glass pane, diving from the heights above it landed with a beat of wings unknown to the young prey, but very familiar to Leda and the parents who are now frantically diving onto the back of the hawk many times their size and he shrugging thick shoulders covered with brownish feathers. The hawk seems to take this distraction in stride as he takes another morsel of catbird into the beak and throws the meal down his throat as first the one older catbird and then the other dives and screams curses, hitting the hawk on the uncaring shoulders; no amber alert signaled across the television, no courts convened after a barrage of flashing lights and sirens sounded, no more evidence of the crime as the hawk slowly lifts off into the sky and the flitting of the white striped wings of the catbirds bound from hedge to hedge in a fading memory of the invasion and devouring of their young.

I stand in the hall an observer of nature’s tragedy, or survival, according to the participants. Now the window clears except for the traversing across the hedges by the parents and I go closer looking for the crime scene now picked clean and the sun still shines and the wire reflects into the light bouncing in the breeze as the white perimeter patrol car breaks the frozen scenery, the observing guard checks the yard and sees nothing abnormal and goes on his lap of a secured compound. I only see that calm has returned and the only motion rises above it all there where that hawk is circling above the prison yard.


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