VISITED: An Advent Poem

 Visited: An Advent Poem

by Mitali Perkins

We wait.
Heavy footsteps pass our cell.
Again. Once more.
Not this time. Not for us.
And then.
They stop.
Key in our door?
We leap off the cot.
The guard grunts the words we’ve been imagining:
“You’re visited.”
The halls reek of bleach and blood.
Who cares?
We want to skip, and race, and dance.
But our feet in regulation black must trudge behind slow boots.

Meanwhile, he’s traveled.
Miles and miles on deserted, dusty roads.
To reach his destination. (Where we are. Where we live.)
Checks in at the Visitor’s Center.
Reminds them of an appointment he made long ago.
Shows his ID.
They check for weapons; he has none.
They let him keep his signet ring.
Everything else must go.
Now the detector lets him through.
Two sliding gates, electrified.
Barbed wire encircles him into a trap. (With us. Where we live.)
Across the gray, dreary courtyard, cameras track his lonely stride.
No living leaf in sight.

Again, they frisk him.
Again, he flashes credentials.
Big keys unlock the last door.
Inside, he takes a seat.

We burst into the room, pushing past our guard.
Who scowls but lets it go.
This time. This one time.
Because there he is.
Rising to his feet.
Eyes alight at the sight of us.
Throws his arms around our tired bodies.
We feel his tears on our cheeks.
Or are they ours?

This room is bursting with reunion.
Couples play cards as if they’re home by the fire.
Children dance near two pairs of knees.
Fathers hold the hands of sons who have eaten with pigs.

We feast on chips and soda from the vending machine.
They taste like baguettes and red wine.
Leaning in, he lowers his voice:
“Is it well, my darling, my own?”

We tell him everything: the wrongs, the wounds, the waiting.
But they belong to yesterday.
Now, all is well.
Today, we are visited.

I wrote this poem after visiting a friend in Corcoran State Prison.