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JB Claywell May 16
They asked me,
as we sat on the
on the recreation
having ‘small-group’:

“If it meant that you could have your legs back,
would you sell your soul?”

Have my legs back?

I knew what they meant,
so I didn’t need an explanation.

It wasn’t an unfamiliar question,
It was one I’d answered several times

Never, though, inside these fences.

As this was the case,
I felt good in my reply.

“No. I like who I am.
Who I am is based
inside of the fact
that I was born
with these legs,
that work this way,
turn that way,
always bending this way.”

They had trouble wrapping
their criminal thoughts around
the ideas of liking oneself
not taking whatever
was to be had.

We moved past it soon enough,
sitting on plastic safety chairs
in a semi-circle under the
basketball hoop.

We moved on to discuss
on the warm
under the warm sun,
which glinted off
of the razor-wire
©P&ZPublications 2020
JB Claywell Apr 19
essentially so,
entirely committed
to being thus.
It’s life outside
of the walls
of my home;
it’s a staving off

Awake at 5am,
on the pavement
by 6.

I take my chances
with COVID 19
in service of
my family,
my state,
men whom are frightened,
shot, stabbed, burned, broken
afraid of nothing on the other side of
except for their futures, uncertain,
stopped short by a virus,
an unseen enemy,
a murderer without a shadow,
killing, perhaps in well-lit hallways,
carried in by the unsuspecting
usual suspects.
No fever.
No cough.
Carriers nonetheless.

I can’t stay home.

idle hands do The Devil’s business,
God never comes to visit.

I need neighbors  
to shelter-in-place
saving lives;
as well as others
yet to be begun
once again,

©P&ZPublications 2020
JB Claywell Apr 1
I peeled the orange whole,
the bitter pith,
the stinging juice,
pulled into sections
eaten one
at a time.

I thought of my new office,
my new filing cabinet,
full of offender homework,
headed for the shredder.

I couldn’t help but read
just a glance now and then.

The bitter pith of justice served,
the salty tears of regret.

The oranges I’ve seen
scattered on the yard,
they remind me each
of a life made hard,
difficult by way of choices made,
more and still by prices paid.

I saw a letter written from father
to infant son,
the pages spoke of deeds
never undone.

“We were drunk.
his daddy said,
“there was an accident
...and, I’m sorry son, but mommy’s dead.”
“I’d ruined our lives on a single night,
I’m doing my best to make it right.”

Like the peel of the orange,
that letter’s no more,
that boy’s daddy paid
what was owed.

He’ll never have his son’s
mother back,
from what I read,
his heart wasn’t black.

Daddy made an error,
in a terrible way,
spending some time
in prison grays.

© P&ZPublications 2020
JB Claywell Mar 22
They’re playing “Life”
in the living room
while I write this.

Alexander and I
believe board games
live entirely too well
up to their names,
refusing, for now,
to play along.

Alex and I
seek a more solitary
style of entertainment.

Books and music
hold sway here.

As we shelter
ourselves from infection,
leading to introspection,
relegation to the confines
of our respective

The Mean 19
is out there,
locking us down.

When we ask,
weeks down the road,
what COVID did,
it’ll be more about
what we’ve done.

How we cared,
what we shared,
art we created,
while we waited.

let’s play.

There’s more
to this,
to everything.

It’s more than just…
a bored game.

©P&ZPublications 2020
JB Claywell Mar 22
We talked,
my lover and I,
about this illness,
this virus that
has us all locked
inside our homes,
hoarding toilet paper,

We spoke of
my mother,
the challenges
that she and her husband
struggled with,
how they bested her
on the beginning
of her 71st lap,
barely started,
never  allowed to

“I’m glad she’s not here for this.
It would be so hard for her and your dad.”
says Angela.

I nod,
wondering how
in-home dialysis
would’ve worked out.

“I am too,”
I agree after a pause.

She’d overcome enough,
paid her dues
long enough
to pass
this pandemic by,
not sheltering-in-place,
breathing easily
as an afternoon stoll
across the face
of The Universe.

©P&ZPublications 2020
JB Claywell Mar 1
Give the horses sugar cubes.
Give the eagle a salmon.
Give the monkey a ripe banana.
Give the donkey a carrot.
No one knows what any of this means.
Trust me, I don’t either.
You can say that these lines are deep,
you can say that these lines are shallow.
I assure you that they’re neither.  
I’m writing to understand the roar in my skull,
to quell the torrent that whips my brain.
I’m writing these words outside of myself;
if I don’t make time to write them down,
they drive me insane.
Into this notebook the ink must flow,
like blood coursing through my veins.

Without paper,
ink, and pen,
surely I’d be wracked with pain.  

I write them down onto this pulp,
I read them from this page.
For I, myself, am a Thunderbird,
I offer my life onstage.  

It is this art inside myself
that I must give away.
To everyone and nobody at all,
I give myself away.
I give everything I have
and am,
to being a storyteller,
a poet,
a husband,
a parent,
a good man,
a friend,  
or just me…


©P&ZPublications 2020
JB Claywell Mar 1
Which way are you going?

I’m going this way.

Robert Frost told me to.

But, it really doesn’t matter
one way or the other
what way,
which way,
when way
you want to go.  

Mr. Frost and I
have miles to go
before we sleep.

These woods are dark and deep,
so we have to be going soon.

We’re following the paths
The Universe has set before us.
We have business
at the end of the line.

But, while we travel,
we’re gonna get a few kicks in.
We’re gonna do whatever
the hell we feel like doing.

Someone once said that the woods,
the snow,
the roads,
the convergence
that Frost laid out
is a metaphor,
an allegory,
some *******.  

I’ve always taken Frost’s words
at face value.
Those two roads
met in the woods,
the choices that we make,
they make all the difference.

create the outcome.
The Universe
a map.

©P&ZPublications 2020
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