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May we suggest

Poetry / November 6, 2018

the poem is a score

Aaron Jones, <em>Congo</em>, 2016. Paper collage. 25.4 x 20.3 cm. Courtesy the artist. Aaron Jones, Congo, 2016. Paper collage. 25.4 x 20.3 cm. Courtesy the artist.


documental blue the grey inside creates a population apart

from outside the oversight in a word prison

when prison is correctional the form of institution diminutive

detention centres, jails, penitentiaries and prisons still


as punishment stands in for welling healing steals the rights

and ancestors—attend there open swift

in the slangy french of her youth across a table

when closed is behind glass—some systems make a distinction


what is daily what was past all subterfuge, as inhumane is made

possible, ill making ill solitary gains surrealistic some systems make

distinctions imaginary—subverted in the presence of segregation


whiles the passive dogs await—a sense of motionlessness—a yard

that isn’t a yard dignified establishes country

by any means exhibitions the power of writing free voices inside


interiority of a determined will (logics fleshed to extend survival

against categories) administrative detention says this is

a non-punitive status for the removal, separate from general


frisked and stripped disciplined art and diminished chances

who, for a time, could only sit and stare her voice hard to hear

amid an economy of surveillance affronts correct and explaining


listen—the wren, a butterfly, the contestatory


against handheld determinants, will to visit the correctional

institution, over-determined maximum is further removal

an everyday place of solitary confinement involves single-cells


for twenty-three hours daily organism inmate

an hour out for exercise


morning is when it’s lighter if it is lighter—when food comes

to taste and slow means perfunctory hardy contemporary


kin, inner life, revolt against convention a system of classification

rather than actual behaviour separated by a partition with a door


sounding high water forms figurative—shadows—static fugues

drape and recede there is depth to arcades and the reach of soaring

towers—safety or security wants orderly operation of bodies

to be correctional prison protects a public from those

who are only ever a public, what makes private


disciplinary segregation a punitive status, contained bodies contain

history, art, a long discordance what cannot come through is felt

in a scattering of meaning anonymity murmurs, the poem is a score


separate is building, conceptual, kind of like a house—to trace one

has to put a backslash t\race for this fisty ion scanner smell of the

metallic detector your bag put through machines to look for barriers


to come through—we make our families


This is an article from our Summer 2018 issue, “Translation.”

Cecily Nicholson

Cecily Nicholson is the author of From the Poplars, which won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and Wayside Sang, which won a 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award. She works with Surrey Art Gallery and the Joint Effort prison abolitionist group.