Breaking the broken air.


Rotting on a rape charge

no, rotting on four of them.

rotting from the work of a reader

who was not sound

I won trial hands down, but

that being said,

I had to rot in county jail for over four months

my public defender was slammed with cases

mostly, or certainly all of them besides me

pleading out for less time

I was the only innocent man in the pod

I was facing the rest of my breath

behind bars

I sat in the cell

orange jumpsuit

no priors

past a shoplifting charge in my teens,

we took off our old shoes and we put on new ones,

put ours in the boxes and pedaled

our bikes for hell out of there

kids having fun,

when the guard leaped from a customer’s truck and tackled me on

the street

and back at the office

the guard

and the cops and I

laughed over it

but it took the

law breaking right out of me

Twenty years later, I sat in the cell, in on some of the

worst fucking charges known to cons

the pod knew I was clean

but the stigma was there,

and certain skinheads wouldn’t look at me

and certain Mexicans with tattoos on their ears avoided

me, which was great in my mind

because that road went both ways

in or out of jail

but there were also the ones who

traded me coffee for poems to their women,

mostly fat and garish blondes who would

visit them during the week, and they would scream

at each other through the glass

what you don’t see on-screen

are the hours of down-time

days spent caged

freezing and starving and scared

I filled yellow lined commissary tablets

with novels and stories

with two jail keno pencils bound by

a playing card and a hair-tie

and the words ran out of me non-stop

and the fear of facing that county and state

stretched every second

but I couldn’t cop a plea to something that

I didn’t do

I didn’t know then that I had less than

a one percent chance of winning my case

but as trial grew closer I was told that I was insane

to go to the box

even by the C.O.s in there,

but I couldn’t bring myself to

lie, and though my attorney knew I was


he wasn’t trying to convince me to do one thing or another,

but his body language told me

to take it to the end

County jail was torment,

the food unfit for animals,

the smell of broken teeth

breaking the broken air,

the scumbags rotating in left and right,

the high hair of derelicts and the feel

of certain death

but the yellow paper

and words,

the fearless love of the muse,

the non-stop light of the words,

and the middle finger in the face

of death and the impossible odds,

feeling the hacks walk by and look in the cell,

watching the outside like a caged and forgotten


the removal of life

replaced with a beating heart of a dying


The words cut through it,

and feeling the sunlight upon the grass after verdict,

seeing grass and cars again, feeling a fly land on my


walking into a bar and buying a

drink, a burger, seeing attractive women,

attractive men, hell, seeing attractive people and things

free from the corruption of that cage

free to do whatever they chose

Back behind the machine, my first words

typed while my bare feet touched


being able to close the bathroom door and

sit on a warm seat,

being able to sleep in the dark again,

smelling the skin of a woman and the

paws of my dog,

opening a window to feel the sun or rain,

or to grip a steering wheel,

all of it held a

child’s fascination,

all of it was

an empty page,

free for the

world to be written


it was a beautiful

and bittersweet mindfuck

I had no legal action against the whore

my attorney told me

to live my life and be happy

grateful that I beat the odds

and that the fates would get her in their own

fashion, so I took that

Looking back on it now,

the success of the writing from the cell

the tall and sun-dripped woman on my arm,

the sun in the eyes of my dog,

the fight against a state dead-set on putting me away for


all of it is beautiful now,

much to their surprised


the sad whores of the beds,

and the whores of the systems,

and the whores of an entire state

can’t touch a man

in love with

the word.


—from Gutted Rose & Other Stories, coming soon…

About Jeff Stewart

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1 Response to Breaking the broken air.

  1. David Hasselhoff says:


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