The First Four Days
I thought there’d be bars in here
but the plexiglass pen doesn’t allow
that sliver dream of privacy or shade
as if there were a sun
where windows aren’t allowed
The window bars drag patterns on the wood
floor beside my futon
that twist and curl.
Soon I’ll know what time of day I’ve woken up
by the fatness of the heart.
I tell the man who sleeps above me
I didn’t do it
he tells me
to get a job in the kitchen
so I can eat the scraps
and buy better soap
My roommate’s making something spicy.
The wok sizzle seeps under my door.
I wait to wash my dishes
until she’s asleep.
I’d rather have a number than my name
tongue-&-toothed in mouths above blue
polyester draped arms that wear the gloves
No one says they’re innocent
while they’re being searched in here
No one has said my name in nights
“Chinese delivery.” ”Four-fifty-seven.”
is all I’ve heard
since he said my name
I tell the man who sleeps above me what I’m in for
He laughs and calls me a BAMF
Why would I tell him I’m innocent?
Standard greeting back to work:
what did you do with this long weekend?
rest. Why would I want to explain
there’s no point in reporting
crimes you can never prove?
Since completing her MFA at New College of California in 2004, Elizabeth Kate Switaj (website) has published Magdalene & the Mermaids (Paper Kite Press), Shanghai (Gold Wake Press), and The Broken Sanctuary: Nature Poems (Ypolita Press). She is currently an Editorial Assistant for Irish Pages and a doctoral candidate at Queen’s University Belfast.