by Athena M. Henderson

The crown of my head touches the wall
my toes touch the opposite wall
as I lie on my grime-encrusted mattress.
Gnats buzz about me and bite
my arms, legs, stomach, face.
My nails are full of blood from scratching.
A soldier kicks my cell door
and yells, “Don’t scratch.”
He’ll teach me a lesson.
He comes in with an insecticide pump
and pushes me outside into the courtyard.
The muzzle of another’s submachine gun in my ribs,
I hear a song on the radio in the soldiers’ barracks:
“I Will Tell You a Myth”
a beautiful melody that flows over me like water.
When I am tossed back into my cell
into an acrid fog that fills my lungs
chokes my throat
I cannot speak.
On my hands and knees, tears fall from my eyes.
Military policemen are singing with the radio.
From another cell, a man is being tortured
screaming for his mother.
Many gnats lay dead on the floor beneath me.
The rest, demonstrators for freedom and justice,
run across the street, onto the grass, flee
the unrolling waves of tear gas
gasping for air.