Michael Bennett

The Eagle

I could take you to The Eagle, a short walk from Western
Penitentiary, soot-charred brick front sitting vacant,
tucked under the bellies of two bridges, rainbows

of cement & rusted steel fixed between grey cliffs
where Pittsburgh myth says old Pegasus grew bald
& flew across the Ohio to die below the overpass—

a few minutes from my mother’s house—this mouth,
this gorge, this grave of boarded fronts & chained-up lots,
one broken hydrant spewing wasted water, watch it trickle

down cracked pavement toward the prison wall. The men
we hide inside, they scratch warnings on cold stone, impending
time & pain & doom, ghosts whispering through granite lips,

one endless song of truth: more men have left in body bags
than suits. We can’t go inside The Eagle, but climb the iron
fire escape, peek through thick glass blocks & spy crushed cans

of juice, tiny black straws strewn in memory of lost nights,
room dense with Pennsylvania youth who’d criss-crossed
mounts to be in this middle of nowhere, releasing cares

like pups playing in the yard with no one watching. Can you tell
I never went? Too scared of older men, them knowing what I didn’t yet,
instead I lay in bed, one mile away, listening to Wham, awaiting

dreamy winged blue eyes to tug me down, drop me atop cured
cowhides stretching over fourth-floor stalls, chapped masters
binding tight-lipped slaves, geared to woo them to the walls—

those leather days are gone, the old guard says, but through
my window I heard echoes of tortured men coming
from the river, groans so deep I couldn’t tell if they were screaming

pain of heaven or of hell. The prison will close soon, places die
too but first they empty, like flushed piss, throating one last gasp
of porcelain air before all sound gets swallowed down the sewer pipes.

Michael Bennett is a 28-year-old queer writer and educator, born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the city and subject he may never escape. He holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University, and teaches teen and adult writers at the Allegheny County Jail through Chatham’s Words Without Walls program.