The Warden says, “It’s a big day; you’ll adjust slowly,
wake tomorrow at 5 a.m., ready for the count.” She nods.
For 32 years she languished, maintaining her innocence.
Released now, she’s on a mission to thank her two
great influences . . . God and a deceased prison guard.
A short distance away in a small church, candles burn
in the alcove for her cause. She enters and kneels, weary
head bowed over hands clasped to calm their shaking.
The absence of shackles surprises her. Overwhelmed
by freedom, a thousand butterflies flutter in her chest.
In a tiny cemetery hidden behind the hill, she trudges
to the grave of the humble guard who befriended her,
kept the path level with compassion and her love of God.
Trembling, she places daisies near the stone marker.
The air seems different here: clear, full of possibilities.
She returns to the church for a Communion service,
then stands outside the weathered doors and confesses
she’s learned a lot—mostly patience. “Things happen,”
she says, “in God’s time, not man’s time. When I finally
learned that lesson, I was released from bondage.”
Her daughter waits patiently, clasps thirty-two strings
in her fist—each tied to a year of her mother’s life
behind iron bars. “Let them go,” the woman says.
Thirty two balloons disappear into the sky. She climbs
into the rusted old car without looking back.
Editor’s note: The poem is based on real events.
Gail Eisenhart’s poems have been published recently in Mid Rivers Review, CANTOS, Front Range, Jet Fuel Review, New Mirage Journal, Barely South Review and in Flood Stage: an anthology of St. Louis Poets. She works part time at the Belleville (IL) Public Library and travels in her spare time, collecting memories that show up in new poems.