We can learn to love anything. I once learned to love nothing.
Buried alive in I.M.U. for years in solitary confinement. Days melt into weeks which bleed into years that become .. nothing.
Nothing new, nothing old. I awoke once in my grave and turned to see whose hand it was I felt clutched in my own. No one’s hand, my most constant companion and most faithful friend. A hand I still hold, still feel. A presence unseen, phantom limb.
I searched for hope’s corpse within the cracks along concrete surfaces and soon realized I knew not where to begin. So I turned myself inside out and found hope on the underside of my skin.
Hope… it is not what it seems…hope is a silent scream, a pointless appeal to angels that are nothing more than life-like amphetamine dreams.
In this place among tombs the past is your god and the future is long dead and gone.
I began to write the story of my hope. To paint the scenery of something, anything, on the canvas of a nothing.
Scars upon scars I carved in my skin, lines among lines weaving like serpentine sins. A wound for every ghost that haunts my sleep.
At night when I’m lost in darkness alone I trace the paths in my flesh with the one free hand I possess. Unseen they spiral beneath layers of ink. Each a shameful memorial. Collectively they create a brail for the damned. This one a betrayal, here a theft, that one was an act of cowardice, there is etched a death.
On and on a coiling web. At its center an arachnid presence waits. Multifaceted eyes holding images of hope’s demise, of a face I hardly recognize.
I shift my focus to that presence unseen, to whisper in ears my most longed for dream, nothing squeezed my hand as if to assure me I am heard and hope is on the way.
I smile and wake to find myself confined
within cracked concrete…
Bound with chains forged…
from scars.
Hope’s flesh decomposes in a corner of hell,
A nightmare realm of broken dreams.
A place where my smile is nothing more than the chalk outline of a silent scream.

James Cody Goodwin