I used to be a Correctional Officer

Bushnell (Redneck Central)


Winter chaps lips—she tells me, “Merry Sadness!

James—you’re a cast-off pile of approaches, of words.


Maybe one day you’ll manage to stride S.C.I.—

A lost bore in libraries. Steal a book.”


I am, she said,


“The edged weapons that pierce, the bled-out epicures

Of savage heart, jealous of breasts that bud.”


So I take surroundings in,

Dark corners of dorm beds,

Mornings after nights spent alone.


Inhabited, the gloom here, it


Herds inmates to chow—pretends I’m hard,

Pretends I don’t know the makings of her.

(Which I do.)


A cynical outlook, I adopt,

A penchant for sad annotations:

Make no mistake, I give my all to her.


The real shape comes;

I make no promises—a blade from plastic,

A lit toothbrush splits skin—


You didn’t miss your mark—I bled where I stood,

And the inmates babbled; desultorily, while coughing cesspool, then,

Finger-painting a carol on a wall:


Merry Sadness.



…Merry Fucking Sadness.


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