October 17, 2017


//john s. copeman

Black and gray specks of Michigan’s DEE-OH-CEE [1] are watching me. State employees with acrimonious jobs and pinching handcuffs. Half a dozen posted-up sentinels along the digestive tract of institutional sidewalks, looking this way, staring. Like acids they ensure our compliance within the blue and orange metabolic process of criminal justice. Dissolving us with minutes, hours, days, and years of apathy. These blurred dots have come into sharp focus now as I traverse across the green colon; being nudged ever closer by the peristalsis of scheduling routines. Playtime is over for the warehoused once again. Chiding a return to the red-bricked Mother. Her welcome scrapes skin bloody, running hot and cold. Her open doors embrace while her mortar holds steady. Indifferent hugs trapping us with her sick love. Filling us with anger and fear and pain and petty rules. Her dangerous moods are like white milk to growing children. Thick and rich, we put on weight that we take with us wherever we go. Volatile. All muscles and rage rolling around in nettles. Stung once again.

Images out of focus like a memory buried in the backyard. Reminding me of mine. I grew up on the lake, a swimmer, where occasionally Angry waves and dark clouds would pound the steel shore, shaking the house. Boom! When I could see clearly, I saw Lake Erie as Lipton brown in the summer. Mostly choppy with moments of calm before the next big blow. Living in the shadow of nuclear power where I was raised among the dead carp and seaweed. Plastic pink applicators floating on by. We had a large boat docked in our driveway. My sister. It was a nautical-themed childhood. But then I was swollen with poison welts and my vision changed. A willow tree with long thin branches swayed when the storms rolled in off the lake. Like changing personalities turned north. Blowing me away like Odysseus needing glasses, I was adrift. Turned November, I lost sight of land and drowned.

And then I washed ashore on the barren coast with nothing. No warmth, no pockets, no Calypso, and no love. Just rocks. My eyesight has grown dim by over twenty-three years of red brick and coiled-wire retribution. The American standard of porcelain products has been stained by our standing still. Our lives turned yellow brine and stagnant — still waiting foolishly for Lansing, modern day Mt. Olympus. The same arrogance. And wait and wait while the so-called pendulum supposedly swings to and fro. Suddenly, clarity of vision overwhelms me as I recall — it’s REALLY a knife — cutting our lives in two. And the chrome handle of change and the septic tile of time has still done nothing. Nothing! Just flushed all that tender goddess named Hope into the swirling vacuum of space. Mixed with the foul burning amber of despair, down, ever down, swirling myopically away.


[1] Department of Corrections — State Prison.

// John S. Copeman is a contributor to The Periphery.



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