Christmas Inside

Death Row, Luzeera Jail

What do they spell, the fairy lights
draping the yard outside the cells?
A daily Christmas? Unwrapping the surprises
before dawn? Another day isn't, for everyone,
something to take for granted. But by the time
the sun is up, what is there left
but sitting in the litter? The new Rolex
tells you tomorrow is already planned
(and not by you). Now wake the elders,
who have ten years seniority or twenty here
in this cramped living room; but they
won't help. They have their fill of presents.
They wink back, knowingly, from time to time 
at all the little glass bulbs that won't grow 
into flowers. But still: on Christmas night
all Christians sing. Guests are received with smiles
and reassured: don't worry, it isn't news
that's welcome here. You needn't tell us 
anything but what we know, what the lights spell:
a guest as always, as already, here 
on the damp ammoniac floor.


[Luzeera Jail is the main prison in Kampala, Uganda]