The Convict

Brian Batchelor


Though the cell is ember-warm,
stiff bed adorned with blanket-itch
and plastic pillow crackling like snow
crust, but each soft in sleep-

though thick flakes, wind-wound,
corkscrew through December cold
ploughing its freeze from firmament
to ground beyond bar-straddled windows-

his shape slumps twelve years
of half-prayers unanswered, ­
eyes guilt-strained at photos of home
absent his familiar face.



The Winds' Own Private Thoroughfare

Brian Batchelor


Heel-scuffing the streets
of an unparticular town,

brow furrowed over eyes
terror-lit, I am lost.

Crisp leaves rusting the ground
around me rasp wind-

thrusted over concrete,
over feet now stilled.

That sound, hush on hush,
mimic's my caged breath

smoke-wreathed and short
from cold. When somewhere

we don't understand
we stand rooted

left to our uncertain selves
until mobility's upsurge

uproots and lifts breezeward
a sure stride.

Finger's bent to fist's tucked
wrist-deep in starched jeans,

I am the last scorched leaf
quivering limb-stubborn

in a solitary landscape
not knowing which wind to ride.




Brian Batchelor


Years I've been locked in rooms
with long silences fractured by hostile thoughts,
exhausting my head heavy, consumed

by concussed days, a lingering deja-vu,
mist without lift. My attempts to fist-flog
still years suffered in locked rooms,

arcing haymakers at minutes never moving,
never connect. My body bends with loss.
Exertion's heavy hands knuckle me meek. I consume

fury ripened quiet in mouthfuls, fuel
fatigued fight against cold sloth
of lapsed years clocked in locked rooms;

this war only urges toward emptiness. Loosens
will's laced gloves. Disquiet enters, assaults
heavy-minded nights. Exhaustion consumes

my mornings. Shape of restlessness bruises
my tomb-narrow bed. Last fistfuls of resolve
dissolve like spoiled years stored in locked rooms.
My heart's heavy, exhausted, battle-consumed.



Blood Blossom

Brian Batchelor


I want to rage.
I want my voice to bleed,
contort hands
into knobbed mallets,
lightning bolt veins
to throb thunderous as I
lit on loaded voltage.
I want to snarl,
bare chipped teeth worn down
on feral curses flaring
from rabid lips,
each brief blaze steaming
up my scourged throat.
All I want is
my fists to bloom
five liberated petals,
arm-stalk rooted
in impulses rubble,
wild-rose rising
bloody toward sunlight.



"I've been incarcerated since 2002 and am a member of the Stillwater Writer's Collective. I've been a fortunate student in the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop for three years and have had wonderful teachers and an amazing mentor shaping me into an addict of writing. My writing has appeared in The Missouri Review, cream city review, and was awarded the 2015 First Prize in poetry from PEN American Center."