Education in the Tulsa County Jail
When I walk in the jail—Wednesday nights,
6:30 sharp—I am always delighted
to see the women’s faces.
“Thank you for consistency,” one woman tells us.
I think, what a wonderful thing to be grateful for.
She says, “You all don’t have to show up, take time and money
out of your lives to come here, but you do. Every week,
you show up.”
I realize I’m not noticing the bright blinding orange
they all wear because that is not why I am here.
I’m not here to discuss your charges
–though hearing your stories of abuse
and your tears scream self-defense in my eyes.
I’m not here to place judgment on who you have been
–though I, too, have been a number of people
in a number of places I am unproud of.
I’m not here to teach you any lesson you don’t
already know or could teach me better
–though you greet me, call me your teacher,
I don’t feel like I am any authority over you.
Pick up your pencils, I say, open your notebooks,
and you tell me the story you’ve been waiting to tell
for so long because we remind you that your voice
is yours, your lips open for this reason so say it loudly.
I am here to listen.