At the Old Jail Downtown

Photograph by Jose Padua
Walking the creaky wooden
floorboards on the second
floor of the museum
at the old jail downtown,
we’re taken back in time
to the early 1800s.
I think how the sky must
have looked bigger then,
how people who were strangers
to one another usually
remained so the rest of their lives,
and how going from one city
to another took more of
a commitment to logistical considerations.
We walk back down
to the first floor’s
more solid footing
and for a moment feel
more secure until the elderly caretaker
tells us how today there are “those people”
who are happy to be in prison
and get their food and
shelter without having to work.
He doesn’t understand why
my wife and even my young
daughter turn silent,
or that the deep
breath I’m taking isn’t
because of the room’s warm, damp air.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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