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Good Lord, so you finally found me in jail,     strutting up as some bigass motherfucker 

          during grub time     then grunting, Gimme all your butter.     Share—     Don't hurt

yourself.     I said, Fuck you.     Go on a diet.     So you slammed me

gainst the chapel's door.          I saw you     through the pen's TV     mounted high 

          above us     in those constant reruns of that stupidass reality show 

American Pickers—     where we follow as you stroke your beard and work 

through people's trash, scouring for every discarded,     yet valuable,     creation. 

          I stuffed my ears with toilet paper,     scanned for pitiful finds:     found you

in my bunkmate's back tattoo that said,     I'm with Stupid     (with an arrow 

pointing up);           saw you in the face of the only white inmate, the most handsome,

          withdrawing on the only crapper     then tipping over,     face-first, 

into the piss on the floor.     As though in prayer.     I'm not ready to surrender, man. 

I feel most blessed     high in prison.          Your stench covered everything: 

          dozen men penned, unventilated,     farting out bad cafeteria canned 

hotdog weenies;     the guards covered their noses during count-ups; 

I heard you in their gags.           You called out constantly: like when I was whacking it 

          in the shower and you shouted from the toilet to finish so you could shit. 

I told you to either suck me off     or hush—     that you always seem

to ruin the moment;          like seeing you in the dark crevice of the white guard's 

          breasts,     overly-exposed gainst regulation,     as she pinched her nose, 

You rankass fa***ts.     She tisked as my bunkmate said,     B***h,     you love


to hate us.     The starkest truths     have a dark light in them.          Like hearing you

          in the youth counselor's shitty raps     bout how he learned his lesson,                      

didn't wanna do bad no more,     after decking that white kid who shot him first

with the no-no word.          Like hearing you in the video he and I watched together

          in the processing tank:     Please fill out a pink slip     if you are sick 

or injured.     Fill out     a purple slip     if you are raped.     How to avoid  


being raped:     avoid everyone .     How others     attempt to rape:                                  

          showing compassion.     They'll expect favors in return     —like penetration. 

Handcuffed and escorted into the pen,     he and I quit smiling at each other,

kept a safe distance;     and shuffling past the guard station, I saw you 

          in the empty bins—where the purple slips should've been;          heard you 

in my lawyer's patronizing billable calls,     Good news, Boss: judge's dropping the charges 

—just pay that 7 grand to my office.     But also, there's a small virus           

          clogging the courts—     libs are even considering a city-wide lockdown— 

ha, soon we'll have it bad as you—so, Boss, you won't be out Sunday like they promised. 

Buck up.     Don't breathe.          And I peered at the TV for some news, 

          but they only wanted us watching you     clearing out trash in American Pickers.          

You appeared in my 4am visions     of finally being surrounded by others     just like me,

who've been used and scrapped     just like me,     and yet,     being at my loneliest. 

          I startledto twelve other Brown and Black faces above my bunk—but 

they were all really just yours     as they choked me     for sleep-shouting; 

I felt your touch as they smashed me gainst the steel door,      as that strange breeze            

          stroked my cheek when the gate gasped open,     as the guards dragged me 

into solitary confinement;     I even felt you in my last sad chuckle     at having just had

my worst nightmare     only to wake     into far worse.            Forgotten.            

          Like when I got thrown into my father's closet     and saw     

there's nothing    to protect me but my own darkness     as you battering-rammed

into the room, shooting your searchlight, tackling him onto my Hot Wheels track

          —like you heaved me into this concrete coffin.     This time, I gave up

even on myself     look where I'd gotten.          I only cried out that first

black day; the last two, I cried inward, cursing myself,     for being forgotten. 

          Led by a chain back from the hole,          I blinked the whole way out, 

until I saw you     in the faces of the dozen other dark men rising. 

And as I lay back into my bunk, I tried ignoring you     everywhere you were;     tried 

          sleeping, only to fear crying out again;     tried staying awake, only for the light

to start collapsing.          Good Lord, I've tried so hard to ignore you,     but still, 

you force yourself upon me.     Well—your shadows encircling my bunk, 

          and my fists     finally relaxing—          come on then.


JAVIER SANDOVAL grew up in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico and studied under Forrest Gander and John Wideman at Brown. He now teaches at the University of Alabama where he also served as Poetry Editor of Black Warrior Review. His own work has appeared in Narrative, swamp pink, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and Massachusetts Review among others, and his chapbook, Blue Moon Looming (CutBank Books), was recently reviewed by José Olivarez as 'poetry for the unruly, and yes, the brilliant among us.' But mostly, he loves to smoke on the stoop with his lady.


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