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K.A. Thomas has appeared in i.e.magazine, Tintern Abbey, and The Texas Review. Her work placed in The Houston Press 1999 Poetry Contest and she was featured on ABCnews.com's National Poetry Month site in 1998 and 1999. She lives in Houston with poet M. Alexander and her son Tristan.


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What Men Want

by K.A. Thomas

Mother, when we were too greedy,
in the covetous way
only needy children can be
when besieged by Saturday TV,
whining: I want, I want, I want...
you'd snap back your habitual reply:
        There are men in jail wanting out.
It is July in Grovetown,
that time of year in the south,
faulty asphalt & heat almost
halt all movement, except
Augusta chain-gangs
who surface to resurface roads
with relentless conviction.
        There are men in jail wanting out.
I knew enough to know you might be right:
men always got what they wanted;
women, always, what they deserved.
        There are men in jail wanting out.
When DeSalvo savagely arrayed
his splay-legged bathtub girls,
looped nylon nooses about each bloated throat,
we were bound to him for good.
Mother, it was bottle & broomstick shoved in
some rude parody of love that consummated his release.
        There are men in jail wanting out.
Berkowitz, Bundy, Buono & Bianchi...
they are just the beginning -- only the B-list.
I can call them all by name, & number
their victims, recount certain talents.
I recognize their signatures;
the handwriting on the abdominal wall.
        There are men in jail wanting out.
Mother, we rig our own ligatures,
reap our own keepsakes.
With leg-irons clapped, lovingly wrapped
around ankles, I shamble alongside them,
a three-legged race every day;
what doesn't kill us makes us hunger
& thirst & long for our just desserts.
        There are men in jail wanting out?
Mother, there are men in hell wanting ice-water.