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Prison Terms

September 3, 2009

From the 2009 qarrtsiluni chapbook contest finalist Prison Terms, by Diane Kendig

None here thinks a pink slip
…is underwear. None here says, ‘lingerie’
or ‘as it were.’

—William Matthews

Flat time, like a flat rate, is non-negotiable.
It is what you served on no platter, after you,
— not your cover, which was already blown —
were turned down the last time for parole,
a word that used to mean, “word of honor”
and now means, “sooner, but conditional,”
or “man, you are booking,” not to say “booked,”
the start, often, of a very long sentence with no syntax,
though we don’t know that as we are strung along.

When we read your bail amount,
nearly doubled at arraignment,
we could only reason, a typo, but when we spoke
to you about it, by phone, through the milky Plexiglas,
you told us they printed it exactly as announced in court
in no uncertain terms, though capriciousness
came to mind then and in the months since.
I don’t think of these words as terms of art
or anything I can come to terms with
any time soon.

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“Prison Terms” first appeared in J Journal: New Writing on Justice, Spring 2009.

Diane Kendig has three chapbooks, most recently Greatest Hits, 1978-2000. Her writing has appeared in journals such as Colere, Minnesota Review, Mid-America, and Slant, and several new anthologies. A Midwesterner at heart, she is currently writing out of place in Lynn, Massachusetts. Find her on the web at dianekendig.com.

  1. September 3, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Oh. Beautifully done. And it ends like a skater after a perfect routine, that sharp controlled swoop to an sudden stillness.

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