The Box

I’m in the gray box. The fluorescent light hums to itself 
and never stops humming. Sometimes I don’t know 
if it’s the light or if it’s me humming, like I’m a beehive. 
And there are bees in my head. The walkie-talkies are jabbering. 
Out there, they are walking and they are talking. 

In here, I swear I can smell the screams from down the hall. 
They got someone whispering into the vent,
because sometimes I hear that tiny voice.
Sometimes my hands curl up, like grubs. And I can’t uncurl them. 
Sometimes I catch myself smacking my lips, 

freestyling without words. I just have to stay focused. 
I don’t want to turn into one of those guys. 
I don’t want to turn. I don’t want to be the guy who bites 
his arm to see the blood, who smears his shit on the walls. 
The guy who chews off his own fingers.

One day, somehow, a cricket got into the cell. Goddamn, 
it drove me crazy. Tiny thing, I searched for it for days. 
Where the hell was it going to hide? And when I found it, 
I grabbed its little rickety leg between my fingers and raised it 
to my eye. I laughed and popped it into my mouth. 

Then it was like all the angels came shining through the ceiling 
and filled the room with glory. Finally, I had won something.
But afterwards, the noises rushed back in, ten times as loud. 
The door clangs, the wild cries, the walkie-fucking-talkies. 
And they beat about my head like an invisible bird. 

And I said, “It’s not that bad, it’s not so bad.” But it was.

Copyright © 2019 by Tony Barnstone. This poem was first printed in River Styx, 2019. Used with the permission of the author.