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The Prison Gardener

Inspired by the prison garden in Warren Maine

First, grins at the honeybees breaking-in daily
And escaping with half their weight in pollen 
To stash in the hive’s safe that’s so hard to crack;

Then, he revels in paroling dark-skinned potatoes
From their long solitary confinement which doesn’t 
Sap their sweet, high-carbohydrate demeanors.

Still, struggling to survive his cell’s dim-lit plot, 
He feels like that dandelion seed the winds waft
From park to inner city sidewalk where only one 

In a hundred sprouts from the crack to bloom 
Amidst dealers, cops and scared-to-walk-to-school 
Pupils. Now, sowing okra, he grasps his own need 

To root into the loam of the American dream 
If he’s to fruit his potential’s own cherry tomatoes
Which lacked, in youth, the dark topsoil of a dad 

And irrigation system of a school curriculum
Whetting his inner-city-kid’s dusty interests. But, for today,
The pole beans quietly guru in their pilgrimage over

The boundless mounds of prickly cucumbers 
Between them and the corn stalks they aspire to spire 
To rise into the light. And so, if he makes parole,

Let us thank the sweet beets for schooling him 
On all the bounty one might accrue from the
Mere three-square-inch plot allotted by the Gods. 

And if he then seeds a community garden 
To nurture kids like him, may the ones who fruit 
Their budding dreams revere the memory of him 

Heeding “how root veggies sweeten in fall’s frosts 
Which sap the last greens.” And as more of us pull over
To stand with the Timothy and black eyed Susans 

As we marvel over this weeding and mulching
Decreasing recidivism four-fold, may we heed the
Invasive species of this empathy loosestrife-thriving

As we root for those weekend furloughs, early paroles, 
And more hearty waves shot our way where, before, only deer
Appeared to remind the prisoners of the bounty they sow.

                                                                                        —Dennis Camire

Dennis Camire is an adjunct professor at Central Maine Community College. His poems have appeared on Maine Public Radio and in The Mid American Review, Poetry East, Spoon River Review and various anthologies. His most recent book, Combed by Crows, was published by Deerbrook Editions in 2017.