Church Behind Chain-Link


I’ll have to think about it.
Something is happening here.
This morning,
H Block’s exercise period,
East-side fitness yard.
Usual pick-up basketball,
Games of catch,
Half-hearted aerobics.
Twenty minutes out.
Kipper got into trouble.
Dealer Kipper, old-timer,
The Joint’s entrepreneur.
Smokes, bandages, magazines, canned treats.
(No rumours of hard stuff.)
Went long for a pass.
Still pretty fit.
Lost track of where he was;
Barreled into Dutch’s corner.
Dutch, the Man.
Protection boss. Double-lifer.
Hand in every trick in the Joint.
Favours, payments, or else.
No love lost between the two.
(Something about a disputed “tariff”.)
Dutch’s corporals,
Lonzo, Turk and Kruger
Slammed him against the chainlink.
Flurry of arms, feet and
Shimmering steel.
Kipper, down, motionless,
Twisted in frightening posture.
Bleeding from the nose, throat, shoulder.
Hands on the abdomen.

“Doc, get over here, now!”
Call me Doc.
(Short stint as a para-medic
In Philadelphia.
Before the armed robbery career.)
The scene, heavy:
Guts spilled, shoulder perforated.
Expert shiv work.
Tower guards not moving.
Kipper, unresponsive to my efforts.
Five terrible minutes.
Buddy pressing torn jacket against open wounds.
No vital signs; plodding C.P.R.
Somewhere behind me
Voices- the guards?
Sounds like praying.
Parson Eddy on the scene
With his hallelujah bunch.
Bible class-“born-againers”.
I step back.
Circle of prayer moves in:
“We rebuke death.
Devil, Kipper will not be taken!
Raise him, Lord, raise him.
For your glory.”
Variations on this rap continue.
Hands on our fallen friend.

Three guards, Ed, Nelson and Donny
At the periphery,
With the stretcher,
Watching.
“Devil, you have already lost.
Our Lord whipped you at Calvary.
We rebuke you, in Jesus’ name.
We plead the blood of Jesus.
Lord, now, like Lazarus.
Bring him back.”
And then it happened.
I swear it.
Kipper inhaled.
Long and beautiful.
A smile graced the bloody lips.
The rascal-eyes blinked open.
Alive! Jesus!
Had to be thirty-five men around,
Between us and Dutch’s
Dark corner.
Bible class will never be the same.
Stretcher work underway.
Eddy’s hand placed on my shoulder:
“Check out John Chapter Eleven,
Doc, John Chapter Eleven.”

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