women in prison

Celeste Gainey

(1974, ABC Close-Up, Joseph DeCola, dir.)

at Alderson:

My Mickey Mouse watch says 3am.
The hum of charging batteries,
heaps of knotted cable
on a bad burgundy shag,
hands shredded from dicking
with the prison’s tamper-proof fixtures.

Whatever’s going down here,
it can’t be seen. Thanksgiving
in the cafeteria, a Muzak melody—
Don’t Fence Me In.

at Marysville:

Inmates are lined up with radios
TVs and toaster ovens—they think
I’m that kind of electrician. They
corner me in the hallway, want
my earrings, my tool belt, my job.

They know I’m the one who can
make them look like stars, so
they smile a lot, throw me kisses.

at Sybil Brand:

Joan Churchill, our camerawoman,
hand-holding her Eclair, shoots the strip
search in her moccasins, soundless
along shellacked linoleum—

New Year’s Eve, I’m back in LA,
in a Safeway in Silver Lake.
Too brightly fluorescent,
everywhere I look
I see beautiful faces in lock-up.

women in prison