Directions to the Otter Creek Correctional Facility

When the guards clear my classroom for an evening recount,
I step outside and stand near the fence.

Here are years of cigarette butts casually flicked
into the rolls of concertina wire. No one can reach

in there to clean them up. I take strength from the cigarette butts.
In Kentucky, tobacco plants receive a lot of tough love

by having their blossoms pinched off to strengthen the leaves.
Beyond the fence, the wall of the mountain rises straight up

like a lump on the head a police baton might leave.
Here are the loneliest men in America. Some things help, I guess.

The bags of magazines, the books I bring in.
Each week before I’m allowed through the gate, I answer the same question:

Do you have any weapons, drugs, or contraband on your person?
I admit it was uncomfortable at first, but it’s routine now

like washing your hands after using the toilet.
How have so many in America found their way here?

Through the whorehouses of Okinawa, which are a kind of prison.
Through having been shot at four times, and four times missed.

Through the broken window of a liquor store.
Through the sincere love of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.

Through junk cars, bad luck, and poverty, poverty, poverty.
Blue jays fly in and out of the yard with impunity. This must hurt to watch.

:: Tim Skeen, Kentucky Swami (2001)

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