Cachin My Breath

by Paris Holmes

I remember the smell of school on the first day.
The old brick building next to the church.
The way the wooden floors smelled.
The way the pencils smelled.
The books. I’m the only one out of my seven brothers and sisters
who hasn’t been to jail.
But you don’t have to go to jail to be in bondage
To experience imprisonment.

I’ve had shackles on my feet, been on lockdown
A long long time
and I didn’t even know it.
Always been somethin holding me down
I just knew somethin was holdin me down.
No can’t won’t don’t don’t say that!
It wasn’t mine…..
this mandatory life sentence passed from generation to generation
The prison goes way back
I was locked up by the time I was seven,
Forty six years old
when I finally got out.

My family is from Springfield
The North End
The Projects
Down South
Brownwood Georgia
My family is from Chaos
And I am accustomed to their ways
They are funny
And Missing
And loving
They called me Skinny Minny
I can still smell the blackberries in the woods goin up the trail
near the West Street Park
And the pissy smell in the elevator of my projects
And the smell in the sandbox in front of my building
The Chaos is still all around me, pulling.
The silence is trying to weigh me down
I’m catchin my breath
I’m catchin my breath
I’ve caught my breath
Finally, I will learn to drive
I plan to own my own house
I will write a book
and I will
be the first in my family
to go to college