The Briar Patch

Briar Patch – August 18, 1966


I sat on the wooden bunk in my little four by seven cell and stared through the barred window to the wall across the dirt pathway that led around to my door.

My body was covered with cuts, bruises, lumps and various infected sores and my mental state was on the ragged edge of despair. But the scariest thing for me at that moment was my hands because they were almost paralyzed. The ropes and hell cuffs had done their work to the extent that I had lost almost all feeling in them.

For some reason I kept thinking about playing the piano that day. I hadn’t touched a piano since quitting lessons at age twelve. In fact I had never really had any regrets about quitting, in favor of baseball and other more fun things, nor could I remember having any desire to play again these past 16 years. But now I was thinking about playing and wondering if I would ever be able to use my hands again – licking my wounds and feeling sorry for myself.

They had finally forced me to write a confession, partially done, that lay on the bunk in front of me. I used a pencil to scribble the incriminating words by holding it between my hands, like two wooden clamps.

This morning I noticed something new across the path. Growing up through the middle of the bamboo shoots and weeds was a single stalk with a bright red flower. I became mesmerized with the beauty of this blossom as soon as it caught my attention.

It was a brilliant red, almost a candy-apple hue that faded into yellow and white at the tip of the blossom. Evidently from the lily family, it arched into a graceful cup that contained a saffron stamen. Beauty triumphing over ugliness, even in this evil place.


Published: 08/16/1986