R. Riekki


the students were writing about prison
and everything they wrote
was too vague.
Make them see the prison, I told them.

You know what, I said,
when I pulled up,
you know, here, for the first time,
you know what I expected to see?

Barbed wire.

A fence.

High walls.

Guards walking around with guns.


They kept guessing.

A guy breaking out.

Us wearing chains and a big ball.

Yeah, that big ball like you see in old films.



No, I said. No, you know what I saw?
I saw nothing.
And you know why?


Because it was noon.
And what does that mean?

It’s too sunny. The sun was in your eyes.

Close. Very close.
What’s all around the prison?

Barbed wife.

Razor wire.

And it was noon, so—

You saw that glare off that razor wire.


Ain’t it a bitch.

That was the most blinding thing I’ve seen in my life. It was like all this light was attacking my eyes. And that’s stuff’s sharp. Sharp!

Yeah it is.

Paint that, I say. Tell us about that, that blazing sun of razor wire! And that’s just the first step in the building. You know what?--people don’t know what it’s like in here. You have to let them know. To get to this room, what did I have to walk by?

The bunks.

Yeah, but what’s in front of the bunks?

The glass.

Yeah, but what’s—

The toilets.

Exactly! The toilets.

The Johns.

Yeah, the Johns. All lined up along the window. Must’ve been fifty toilets.

A hunnert.

Yeah, probably more like a hundred. And not one guy was pissing.

We all piss in the shower.

There’s urinals too.

But those toilets out front—

Guys taking craps.

Yeah, musta been fifty guys I saw going to the bathroom.

We just got done with chow.

That’s how I get to this room, everyday, what I see.

It’s worse down towards the chapel.

Why, what’s down there?

You never been to the chapel?


Oh it’s worse. Much worse.

Tell me, I said. Or no. No! No, I said. Here’s what I want. Here’s what I want you to do. Write it down. Right now. Everyone. With your pens. What’s down by the chapel? I don’t know. So you have to tell me. With your pens. What’s down by the chapel? I want you to tell me what’s down by the chapel.

R. Riekki's novel U.P. was Ghost Road Press's bestselling novel for 35 weeks.
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Blogger tom said...

Prison at Marquette? Will try to pick up your book soon. Any word on the movie yet? Sunny and warm here in Calumet.

Truth to this poem.


1:14 AM  

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