This poem and piece of artwork are taken from Discovery – Poetry And Art by Rick and Jan Sikes.
Prison was a lonely place to be during the holidays. Rick often told stories of depression and how there was an increased number of suicides around Christmas.
I chose this poem because, in a twisted way, it does have a happy ending.
Old Jim’s Christmas Parole
A story of morals, for Christmas telling
Of an old convict, who next to me, was celling.
One hell of a man, that old Jim,
We called him “Pops”, but all respected him.
He’d been in prison since I don’t know when,
Probably chained to a tree, while they built the pen.
No one sent him anything, so we gave what we could give.
He was old and sick and had sorta’ lost the will to live.
Christmas eve, he was restlessly walking,
I asked him to sit down and we started talking.
“Hell, son,” he said, “I’ve been down roads rough and tough,
Then, I went straight, hung it up – I’d had enough.
But, you know how it is when you’ve fallen before,
Get seen around a place where someone makes a score.
Well, that’s what happened to me this time,
I got railroaded right on down the line.
I’ve got something in my eye, no use lying, it’s a tear.
I ain’t heard from my wife or kids in many a year.
But, you know boy, I got a goin’ home feelin’ in my soul.
Don’t see how though, ain’t no chance in hell for parole.
Damnedest feeling I ever had, can’t understand,
Wishful thinking I reckon, of a foolish old man.
I guess you know, my home-folk passed on years ago.
It even seems if I was home, they’d be there I know,
Just like old times watching the children play.
Home is the sweetest place on earth on Christmas day.
That’s something you remember, now don’t forget,
I don’t see no way I could get home, but it may work out yet.
Best wishes to you boy, I’m tired, gotta go to bed.”
The next morning old Jim made it home, they found him dead.
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