“Punishment” by Nancy Miller Gomez

Nancy Miller Gomez


They used books as weapons.
This is not a metaphor.
Because there were no blankets and they were cold,
the men in cell block L threw books
with intent to do bodily harm.
They rained down from above.
Rained down from the cells.
Guards shielded themselves
with dinner trays and mop buckets.
The men tossed entire libraries. A rage of books.
Lobbed in high arcs like footballs,
or pitched overhand like grenades.
Hardcovers shattered on cheekbones
or exploded on the back of someone’s head.
Paperbacks spiraled down, loose pages fluttering.
Thin ones skipped across the shiny tile like stones on water.
There was mayhem. There was blood.
Words littered the floor. Guards ran for their lives.
The men had spent years collecting—
biographies, mysteries, histories, science fiction,
even poetry books, their spines fine and reedy,
or thick with free verse.
One man threw his grandmother’s leather Bible.
Inside the front cover in elegant script
she’d noted the date and time of his birth.
Now it lay face down, back broken.
Another man hurled his family album.
It fell from the third floor, the photos scattering
on impact. His wife, his son, his daughter
smiled up from the chaos.

from Punishment
Rattle Chapbook Series Selection


Nancy Miller Gomez: “Poetry helps me to make emotional sense of my life. Each poem is a struggle to clarify something I don’t yet understand.” (web)

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