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Letter to an Inmate in Solitary Confinement


We all want to know our worth, the value
of a tin can, a newspaper in the rain.

You must remember the rain—its teeth,
its tongue? Think of what it's been made

into, how it's been transformed: solid, liquid,
gone. Sometimes I put my fingers in my mouth

and chew on what they've done. Do you ever
do that? Do you count the bricks?

That's what we do on the outside, too.
We make them, we count them.

I read in the paper they're closing down the mill,
talking about condos, selling it all off at auction

machine by tired machine. But killing something
can take a long time. I cut down a tree

and it took all day. First an ax, then a saw,
then dragging it up the hill like the dead body it was—

all heavy and already forgotten. I used
some beautiful old blade to strip off the bark in curls.

It smelled like a new house, except I wasn't
building a house. I left it out in the field

for a year of rain. Try not to ask yourself
what this waiting means or why you're held inside it.


Keetje Kuipers

The Keys to the Jail
BOA Editions


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