Jail Time and Standing Up for Something

by Belinda Munoz on October 4, 2011

It’s late, it’s hot and
bedtime equals cruel time when you’re in jail.
The slab of steel is bruising to anything it touches.
Temples pound while
heads long for a pillow then
settle for a leather shoe,
whichever is softer of the two.

Eyes close but remain awake
to the memorized smiles of loved ones,
to the sweetest kisses ever tasted,
to the bluest oceans ever sailed.

The window-less walls
glare with indifference
while clock-less hours
tick into rhythm-less motion.
Sweat soaks cuffs.
Follicles redden beneath violent fingernails.

Meanwhile, their resolve strengthens as
the outcry grows louder;
the march, faster;
the chant, deeper —
all of which is music to their ears.

When darkness engulfs those cold, hard cells,
the only sources of light are the heart and mind.

Though steel bars lock, the will remains free.


Recently, I had the privilege of watching Desmond Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi in conversation with Charlie Rose. It was a life-affirming experience to hear from these lifelong activists who have made great sacrifices fighting for human rights. And now as I watch the ongoing non-violent protests by folks who want to stop construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline or the Occupy Wall Street group (that have now formed sub-groups in other cities, there’s even an Occupy San Francisco now), I’m reminded of the ordinary-ness of everyday heroes, how they are everywhere among us, simply choosing to do what they know in their hearts is the right thing to do. I’m sure some of you reading this are already such heroes or are heroes in the making.

I’m in awe of these folks brave enough to block construction of the pipeline, bold enough to protest economic inequities and daring enough to fight for a cause, save a life or re-assert human rights. The above piece is dedicated to them. They remind me, once again, of just how much I (we) have compared to so many others who deserve just as much. They challenge me to consider what I’d be willing to go to jail for and what sacrifices I’d be willing to make to preserve what’s truly important. They show me through their actions that collaboration or cooperation is the only way there is to truly move forward.

If you’d like to be moved, read Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone piece.

Posted for dVerse Poets Pub’s open link night.

image credit here

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg October 4, 2011 at 6:10 am

Brilliant, moving, clear. They are amazing people, the real soldiers in a growing movement to take back our lives and our planet from the 1%.

Thanks also for the link to McKibben’s article, it was so gentle and so jaw-dropping all at once.


2 brian October 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm

so true…such an inspiration to see ones willing to stand up and make a difference even at a cost to themselves…saw some of the police brutality toward the occupy wallstreet people as well…ugh….


3 Pat Hatt October 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

It is very inspiring to see someone take a stand against those in the wrong. Great tribute.


4 ayala October 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm

A great tribute to everyday people that step up and become heroes and an inspiration to others.


5 hedgewitch October 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Arresting picture of the physical and emotional impact of confinement, and your statement below the poem is very true. This is how things change, by people who are willing to risk their comfort and security, and sometimes their lives, for what not just they, but we all know is right. Excellent poem.


6 Kim Nelson October 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm

You illuminate the realities and difficulties borne by heroes…


7 gautami tripathy October 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm

It is a poem that hits hard. Powerful.

a song, this is?


8 Gay October 5, 2011 at 6:26 am

You express quite well the strength of character, the bravery, the fortitude of mind it takes to place your personal well being at risk for your beliefs, to buck the system. Well done.


9 Ann LeFlore October 5, 2011 at 6:11 pm

What a wonderful tribute to the people who stand up for what is right at no cost to them they are willing to risk it all to protect what they feel needs to be protected and right the wrongs of others so well done


10 Morning October 6, 2011 at 7:21 am

this is powerful and insightful.


11 Charles Elliott/Beautyseer October 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Your poem reminds me of a scene in the “Doctor Zhivago” movie of the 1960s. A labor conscript is being escorted in chains in the same train on which Zhivago and his family are fleeing the violence of the 1918 Revolution. The fellow in chains remains defiant, howling at his captors and the others, “I am the only free man on this train!” Courage, all!


12 Marci | Liberating Choices October 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I love the part about still having light inside them even in the darkness. I think this applies to us all, even if we aren’t in the darkness of a jail cell.


13 Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri October 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Your clarity resonates in these verses. Evocative and powerful. You always make me think Belinda. Thank you.


Leave a Comment

Previous post: Inner Strength and Cancer

Next post: Humble Pie