Poetry: Today by Graham Rae


Nothing ever happens here. Boredom thick and heavy and inescapable in the air like a no-motion poison gas. Television spitting insulting lies from the sky. Boardgames, bored games. Clots of half-distracted attention floating lazily through the slow arterial bloodflow of the place and people. A hanging gallery of young and old, prison-industrial complex bought and sold, flame-grilled, slaves by any other name or number. Custodial sentences written on lined faces. Borrowed shower shoes, celly-phone blues. Loved ones whisper wistful wish-you-were-here love letters down the sighing phone lines. Pain comes in all sizes, large and small, short and tall, 1XL to 6XL, DOC DCSI DOA FBI CIA CPD SWAT EBK KK LK GD VL MIA KIA. Cell’s bells, rocking the tired under-fire souls bared behind bars. Images of child abuse and dead homies and drugs deals and thugs dead flicker animated behind burning incarcerated eyes. Green cell door, what’s that secret you’re keeping? Sharp-eyed card sharks thrashing in winning water like a great white after loser meat. Pterodactyl-voiced black female guard swoops in through click-opened door, squawks a name, retreats into lazy hateful no-neck misery. Wash your own clothes, save or sell your own souls. Eternal escape is exactly as easy as tying a torn-up green blanket round a had-enough neck and stepping off the bars round the top deck into short sharp gravity-interrupted flight. Whoops and howls and whistles and laughs and catcalls and raps and tablebasheddrumjunglebeats battered from the raw scarred materials of hidden-depth lifeviews. Bald heads, shaved heads, short-hair heads, afros, dreads, corn rows, skullets. The omnipotent impotent jail god watches everything with a cold black appraising electronic voyeur eye. Quiet furtive lonely cell masturbation. Every televisual female mouth and pussy and ass promises an unsurpassed orgasm. Best rapper lists shouted and tangling in hissy-spit heated air. Wash your clothes in the sink, the regular laundry ain’t worth the shit from your cheap Vietcong-style jail-issue sneakers. Yellow ice bucket provides the only water worth thinking about drinking, but dehydration is way too accessible in the dry coughing air so suspect fountain flow it is. Locked doors, past mysteries, years-outdated petty shit announcements. Jagged angles of talk of hos and projects and hoods and gangs and Gs and repping and pimping and retail theft techniques and sodomizing bitches and car theft and small-score hustles and murderous cellmates and smack habits and seeing shapes in weed clouds and shot friends and inescapable death or jail or prison fates. Food exchange cries ring in the hunger-motivated air – COOKIES FOR PEANUT BUTTER CRACKERS, RICE FOR CAKE OR GINGER SNAPS. Fake fights, rough and tumble, tough and rumble, kick your ass, kill your ass, kiss my ass, beat you down, beat you up, hook up with your bitch when I get out fuck you nigga. Black history month or year or whole life in living breathing laughing color right here right now. Boo camp. Swapping sentences and convictions and judge stories and tips. Clock hands with broken timeteller fingers moving backwards laughing at every that-the-fucking-time groan and aw shit. Useless obnoxious black female guards sit by the reinforced window and don’t raise a finger except to eat Cheetos or popcorn, barking bored orders occasionally to break up the tedium of clinical jailhouse braindeath. Young stud avoiders cynically watch everything and nothing go down from the eventless top deck. Alienated nothing-in-common youngstars pace listlessly and do laps of the goldfish bowl. Janelle Monae ejaculates black beauty across my face from the Pepsi-pimping BETV screen. So you get the idea. Like I said, nothing ever happens here, so I’ll direct you to the
exit, which is lit up with
a big bold sign like
we need to
know or
be told

9.26 a.m. – 11.10 .a.m., 2/24/2016

Cook County Jail



Graham Rae has been published on both sides of the Atlantic since he was a teenager, on the net and in magazine form. He has written for venues like Deep Red, Samhain, The List, Cinefantastique, American Cinematographer, Diabolique, 3am, and Dangerousminds. Wherever normal is, he is not.


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