Breaking The Chains
in memoriam Terry Berry

He was annoying.
In that way that someone desperate
for social acceptance can be.
We’ve all met (or been) the type.
He talked to much and too loudly.
He stood outside of my neighbor’s door talking
and with my door closed
and my headphones on
I could still hear his voice
booming through the vent.
He tried too hard.
He would follow you around the day room
still talking
even though you made it clear you weren’t interested.
He had some fundamental insecurities
and a desire to be accepted (like all of us)
but his overcompensating behavior was not tolerated
in prison.

I wasn’t the unit manager who put him in
the most violent gallery in protective custody
even though he was only in for check fraud.

I wasn’t the person who beat him up
and told him to “check in,”
forcing him off the gallery.

I wasn’t the administrator who decided that,
for his safety, he should go to the hole
even though he was due to parole in days
and put him in a single cell with a lifer
in for murder.

I wasn’t the staff who ignored
the murderer’s warning
to move Terry out of his cell.

I wasn’t Terry who probably thought it was just horseplay
until his vision narrowed to black
as he passed into unconsciousness.

I wasn’t the murderer who said
“Yeah, I killed him.
He wouldn’t shut up.”

I was just the person
who avoided talking to him,
who didn’t make him feel accepted,
who didn’t warn him to tone it down.

Could I have broken the chain of events that killed him?

Could we have?

Could you?