The Ex-Cons Parade

We march, not in single file,
free hands tenderly
picking one another’s pockets,

laughter wild & unrestrained as a murder
of crows from ragged treetops.
When parents bring their kids to witness

our circus of clumsy high-wire walkers,
rather than point & mock, they stand in front
or cover young eyes—darkness, too,

about us, a kind of freedom
from candor. Who could blame stern fathers
or mothers dressed to avoid the scandal of want?

They protect their offspring from seeing
lightness in our corrupt hearts
as we juggle two flaming batons,

a spectacle to celebrate
our joy at having survived our crimes,
our punishments, check-marked innocent

on status reports, although there may
be other offenses before the band
plays its farewell notes at avenue’s end.

White Rabbit

She keeps it caged as if imprisoning dreamlike childhood tales.
Fur puffs, floats through the room in balls like seedheads.
The animal remains standoffish,
eager to feast or race through a gate &
under the couch, not wanting to be touched,
a victim of unknown prior trauma.
Older rabbits tend to be skittish, she says,
scooping shit & hay into a bucket. They have to get used to us.
How do we make friends with our jailers
or receive a comforting hand
that holds the jagged edges of a key?

Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021), I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, and The Prisoners. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble. His seventh collection, Tell Us How to Live, is forthcoming in 2024 from Fernwood Press.