Hallowed Halls and Warping Walls

five foot two


from the height

of academic elitism

diminutive doctorate

commands respect

in determined strides

conjures courtesy

among vociferous


walks tall

down storied

hallways myriad

five foot two


(head up, trembling)



walk of shame

compacted between

key-jangling escort


leering jumpsuited


lining the halls

visual assaults

steadfastly ignored

five foot two



with knowledge


and adamant


five foot two


in the advent

of memory

video clips

replaying endless loops

grey concrete squeezing

while the eyes


revel in their fucking

over her silent

screamed objections










she had plummeted

swept under

Acheron’s raging currents

drowning in the depths

she stagnated

in foul brackish pools

toxins pervading every pore

she slithered

on scaled snakebelly

from immersion in noxious lagoon

crawled through mud and muck

briar patch scratched

stench of her debasement

malodorous effluvium

perpetual leaching

skin and soul

keening for renewal

she stumbled upon

crystalline pools


springs of amnesty

stripped to the bone

she tiptoed trepidatious

into waters of absolution

parched dermis

quenched in soothing amity



she stands erect


to dive again

into rivers of life


deemed creepy-crawly

she was confined

in no self-spun silk



she deliquesced

consuming herself

until she is

no longer

more than

mucilaginous goo

you will transform

they told her

you will fly free

beautiful to behold

inside her shell

pulsating gunk and muck

all she knows

is insensate ooze


one morning

she twitches


sludge coalesces

in directable movement

pounding the horns

of her head



she cracks the shell

shivers in the air

while slime

dribbles off

she thrusts forward

seared in dawn


Independence Days

hotdogs and beer

pool parties and fireworks

sweaty summer afternoons

nights steamy or chilled


incongruous connections

to freedom


hotdogs do not

equalize privilege

among citizens

just stomaches


beer certifies

the ludicrosity

of belief

in inalienable rights


striving for our birthrights

of upwardly mobile

hearty grain fed

prosperous equality

we spark

brilliant and fiery

pop pop pop


your sons and daughters

sisters and brothers

lovers and frenemies

crane their necks

behind barred windows

contorting for a glimpse

of light

glittery sparkling


they eat hotdogs

boiled and dried out

tripling as holiday fare

haute cuisine


multiple bangs

for your buck


they dare not


of cool pool dips

while showering



naked and afraid


they swagger

with bravado

walking gauntlets


dustups, scuffles

tortuous assault

do not scar

when they alight

wayward sparks

night after night

Piper, if I May Have a Word?


before prison

I watched your show

binge watched even

who didn’t?

in the furor

was common ground

among disparate selves

racy and fast paced

it engendered empathy

for a diverse gang

national phenomenon

it captivated us all


black is a little black dress

versatile, all purpose or sexy

what does orange

have to do with that?

then there was real prison

I wore orange

for a year

jumpsuit ill suited

for feminine curves

or a sense of humanity

I didn’t meet hot women

(no one is hot in orange sack cloth

and ashes of abject humiliation)

or have dance parties

or great sex (or any sex)

my skin withered

from lack of affection


black is trendy and chic

slimming, for daywear and night

true, we wore orange 24/7

and I did lose weight


Did you really wear orange at all?

Feds wear khaki scrubs

those are haute couture

compared to orange


burnt smelling jumpsuits

everyone wants to wear black

it’s sexy in a bra

all business in a pencil skirt

orange is stigma in shapeless coveralls

no one bargain hunts those


in real prison

I was always scared

I cried (a lot)

I was so alone

I was miserable

I felt guilty if

I accidentally laughed

you referenced the misery

almost in an aside

unnecessary eyeliner on a model

it was the carb-laden

diet of my existence


I thought about you

and your story

in harsh reality

and how we might

have common ground

middle class professionals


so I read your book

searching for understanding

validation of experience

my search for affirmation

abandoned me

in a bittersweet desert

destined to find myself


I felt your empathy

desire not to judge

your compatriots

I appreciated that

I was impressed

by those sentiments

I scavenged what I could

well-schooled in prison survival

take what serves me

pretend I don’t see the rest

the disconnect arose

in the fun

you described

how you ran and shouted

like those women

I couldn’t stand

who acted like prison

was a street gang


who relished

the release from responsibility

that incarceration wrought

celebration of orange

is the color of abandonment

dereliction of duty

abdication of obligation


I longed for

my responsibilities

I fought the urge to

Bitch-slap women

who said jail

was a vacation

but then I would

have been sinking

to the level expected

of a felon

black could be the darkness

hidden inside us all

that we secret

even from ourselves



in my despair

I thought your survival

could light a torch

in the darkness

orange is not

the color of my torch

in black I hide

from demons and demonizing

 orange is neon shouting

my greatest private shame


I keep trying to understand

the title to your story

so many women

go to prison

were you capturing

the ubiquity

of our captivity?


I know you are a warrior

speaking out against the system

I just don’t understand

how you colored

your experience


I must have gone

to prison

with a different

set of crayons



she stepped off a cliff


but it was not

a hellbound leap

no mayhem wreaking Bonnie

guntoting with incorrigible Clyde

nor was it a defiant act

of faux-glorious self-destruction

circa Thelma and Louise

it was apropos of Looney Tunes

Wile E Coyote debacle

chasing roadrunner shaped winds


educated, she is adjudicated

nobody’s fool

her missteps, limbs flailing

harshly judged

and that cliff

sharply outlined

in the chalk of impaled futures





Papered Revolutions

there was always a right way

to put the toilet paper

on the holder

hanging down over the top

not under, out of reach

flat against the wall


in younger days

she expounded on this rule

taught children


once, twice

a dozen times


in time she mellowed

abandoned lectures


silently rehung

wayward rolls as needed

consternation flushed

automatically as tissue squares


then came the months

of paper carrying

her toilet roll

everpresent companion

wiping mouth and eyes

and parts no longer private


they joked, inside

whether they would

remember to forget

to carry rolls around

from eating to bedside

and toilet bound


she did indeed


in toilet paper toting



obsessive roll-reversal


(artist: unknown)


on this journey

of bumps, lumps and bruises

she collides, haphazard

against masses


or intimate

for moments

or months

there are faces

with no names

names with no faces

they are the nameless



shared trepidations

conjunctive catastrophes

assaultive looks

distrustful assessments

reluctant camaraderie

laughs erupting


paths converge



in the moving on

she carries

internally tattooed


from all their souls



windows watch

from under water

they refract murky offing

obscured under tranquility

in flat-paned blankness

future hide and seeks

dark-eyed hollows

haunt retrospectively

among the polished smoothings

swim shards of apocalyptic

non-apologetic apoplectic

dissembled anarchy

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

…already in progress


remember that antsiness?

hopping one-footed

from impatience

to exasperation



ticker-taped drama


your favorite show




in childhoods’ eyes

worthless irrelevant

waste of time


on your levity


the voice of

Peanutted adults

“wah, wah wah, wah wah”ing

until the

stoically intoned

sweet release


the discovery



of plot twists

irretrievably lost

(the days before

instant perpetual

electronic gratification)

favorite characters

now played by

different actors

and you missed

the announcement


now imagine


instead of a show

that was your LIFE


running on

while you are gone

plots reversed



and NO ONE

has a DVR


and tell me again

how incarceration