2 March 2003 | Vol. 3, No. 1


Increases in prison spending (in the U.S.)
average twice as high as increases in education spending.
– National Criminal Justice Commission, 1996

Ink forms the mathematical symbol

for infinity over a bicep.

The odor of sin lingers

in concrete blocks joined

and cemented like freak show twins.

Steel slams into heavier steel, man into man;

there's atonement in sex, he told me.

These urinals swallow enough soul

poison to form me an ice river

to fish when hell freezes over.

Veins chase imaginary needles

through an hour of dominoes;

a letter arrives in a perfumed envelope

with a photograph of a crew cut,

wearing a pint-sized man,

miniature and exact as the hole

his hero blew through a skull

three years, six months

and fourteen days ago tonight.

Steel slams into heavier steel;

he answers in block letters

from a cell in light so dim

you wouldn't skewer a lure by it

and prays for smokes and his son.

About the author:

Shelly Reed writes in Norwalk, Iowa, where she enjoys regular silence. Her work appears extensively online and in print, nationally and internationally. Recent poems appear or are scheduled for appearance with Comrades, Sometimes City, Wilmington Blues, and 2River.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Shelly Reed at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 3, No. 1, where "79845601" ran on March 2, 2003. List other work with these same labels: poetry.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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