[from Lucia Perillo's Inseminating the Elephant, Copper Canyon, 2009]
Snowstorm with Inmates and Dogs
The prison kennel's tin roof howls
while the dogs romp outside through the flakes.
The inmates trained a dog to lift my legs --
for months they rolled the concrete floor
in wheelchairs, simulating.
Through a window I watch them cartwheel now,
gray sweatpants rising against the whitened hill
traversed by wire asterisks and coils.
At first I feared they pitied me,
the way I flinched at the building's smell.
Now the tin roof howls, the lights go off
to the sound of locking doors. Go on, breathe --
no way the machinery of my lungs
is going to plow the county road.
Didn't I try to run over a guy,
spurned love being the kindling stick that rubbed
against his IOUs? Easy to land here,
anyone could -- though I think laughter
would elude me, no matter what the weather.
Compared to calculating how far to the road.
Signs there say: CORRECTIONS CENTER DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS.
My instructions were: Accept no notes or photographs,
and restrict the conversation to such topics as
how to teach the dog to nudge
the light switch with his nose.
Now the women let their snowballs fly -- as if
the past were a simple matter that could splat and melt.
Only my red dog turns his head
toward the pines beyond the final fence
before the generator chugs to life.