Posts Tagged ‘Rina Terry’

About The Box On The Front Step

January 3, 2012 2 comments

by Rina Terry

When it was delivered is as much
a conundrum as the leaves falling
in July with the cantaloupe patch
still flowering and weaving its tendrils
through the swamp lavender. She

came unexpectedly and tripped over
the box. We were so busy sanitizing
and bandaging her knees and elbows
it went forgotten for days until
the strange tapping and bulging

began. Now she is wishing for
a drawbridge and moat, one
with odd creatures all jaw and teeth,
and the remainder a whipping tail
with spikes and bulbous warts,

and calling me at all hours of the night,
except when the moon is full
and there is so much light, the box
casts its shadow across the entire
neighborhood. It doesn’t belong to
anyone else and why this invasive

curiosity who can tell. If I choose
to leave it there, an ordinary,
bulging, rhythmic cardboard box,
until the trumpets sound, what
is it to mortals, or to angels even
but she has become obsessed
with what is none of her business,

reported it to the authorities, home-
land security and the bomb squad
have taken up residence, at a safe
distance away in the landscaping
stones that make it more difficult
to do the perpetual weeding. Now
she is peering from behind the
blinds and making obscene gestures

and I’ve grown excessively fond
of the box and prefer mystery over
the selective literalism of those who
lead their lives according to one holy
book or another. I’ve installed a sign
on my front lawn:


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Rina Terry is an ordained United Methodist Minister who spent most of her clergy career as a prison chaplain at a state, adult male facility. She is passionate about jazz and restorative justice. She now lives, works and writes in Cape May, New Jersey.

Categories: Worship Tags:

At Home in Hell

August 3, 2011 5 comments

by Rina Terry

Lifers understand me best
these days, they say, apartment, not cell,
and the jitterbugs, the gladiators,
make us both twitch. There’s no point
in trying to explain it all, unless you appreciate
the perfected rhythmic sway of a shackled walk
and the dignity of the thick leather belt that holds it
all together at the wrists. Except for those beat down

one too many times, some toothless because
they can’t get fillings here, only extractions
and there’s the art of being extracted—specialty
training at the Academy. Darth Vader gear a tip-
off—there’s trouble on the tier. Someone tripped
and fell through a third-tier window, into the yard,

gets 172 stitches and disappears North for
Ad Seg. Later you hear the rumor he’s dead
or worse. Got himself a woman on the inside,
then you know, his last appeal was one turn down
too many, parole, just one hit after another,
he tells his lady to fa’get about it. Move on

with her life. Now Juan’s back, his lady will phone me. Beg me
to call him out and talk to him. She’ll tell me about the kids,
how they are crying to go see their papi, how she truly loves
him. She will wait as long as it takes. Juan, he’s usin’ again;
I see the junkie sweat, even though he cleaned up, used oils

for our date and put his khaki’s between Mass Movement’s
mattresses, to press a crease in his pants. I have hot water, a rule
I break every day, and offer him herbal tea. He gave up caffeine
two bids ago, says it makes him mind when they push up
and that’s dangerous. We remember how he slit Chico’s throat
with a box cutter, though neither of us mentions it today;
we talk about my publication and he nods in approval, Mi
Reverenda, he says, gruff with affection. High praise; I blush.

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Rina Terry lives, writes and works in Cape May, New Jersey. She is a United Methodist Minister and spent seven years as Supervisor of Relgious Services at an adult male population state prison.

Categories: Imprisonment Tags:

Eleven Times A Loser, he said.

June 20, 2011 4 comments

by Rina Terry

He counted them off,
conviction by conviction,
bid after bid, by fingers, thumbs,
his body drawing itself up
straight and tight
and stiff
and then for that final one
formed his hand into the shape
of a gun and pointed it
at his right temple
and held it there

a very,   very   long time

“Eleven,” he said,
and his eyes, as he turned to salt
before my gaze, held a blankness
that brought no tear of sympathy
but a shortness of breath,
as though this steel and concrete
world no longer lived by oxygen.

In whatever co-existing valence
we dwelt for those moments, the Shift
Change meant resuming normal
posture that could not be construed
as anything more than sitting
in a chair, in the chaplain’s office
for a one-on-one

he recollected himself
slid into the his usual pose:
shoulders back and down,
chin dropped
to unclench the jaw
(just the faintest hint
of muscle spasm at the side
of the face where things hinge),
one leg stretched out long
and wide apart from the other.
The even wider, wider smile
as the officer tells him
his time is up.

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Rina Terry lives, writes and works in Cape May, New Jersey.

Categories: Imprisonment Tags:
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