Prey Sar, Block C, Room 3

 

i) The cell is as tall as two men
As long as twelve laid end to end
In the concrete trench
Between two hip-high slabs.

The slabs are wide enough
For prisoners to sleep with their feet
Toward the trench
Shoulder to shoulder.

In the trench they sleep
Two abreast on reed mats,
Close as fish eggs.

Fifty four men stay here,
Twenty two hours of the cycle.
There are no beds or cots or
Furnishings, save a long shelf
Along the wall.

The toilets are porcelain holes
In damp concrete
Partitioned by plastic sacks.

ii) The men in here are thieves
and revolutionaries,
Gun runners and drug sellers.
A disgraced General
Is king behind the door.

I sleep beside Nat,
A cattle thief and bandit
Who once knew a sorcerer
Capable of working charms
That rendered thieves invisible.
With this spell,
Nat stole many buffalo.

They caught him in the city,
With a gun and a hot scooter,
Three wallets and a Rado watch.
Armed robbery, twelve counts,
Served consecutively
because he is poor.
Sixty years.

iii) Lawless men make their own laws
From necessity.
In such dread proximity,
Standards must be kept,
Maintained by the General
And his enforcers.

Harm none, don’t make a fuss, do your time.
Simple, in this place of absolutes.

Today the room is quietly charged,
Humming with threat.
Tuen the snitch,
For the sake of his whispers
Has been judged.

When we bed down for noon siesta,
They catch him with a blanket like a netted frog.
Five men begin their work,
Nat among them.

Tuen shrieks under the blizzard
Of fists, knees, elbows, feet.
Guards mock from beyond the metal door,
For five minutes of marathon.
They leave him bleeding beneath the blanket.

The General cracks his stick against the slab,
Orders a halt.
There are no reprisals.

Benjamin Brown

Author: Benjamin Brown

Benjamin Brown is a Gold Coast based writer and sometime poet currently studying Creative Writing and Literature at Griffith University.

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