from One Big Self

I want to go home, Patricia whispered.

I won't say I like being in prison, but I have

learned a lot, and I like experiences. The terriblest part is being away

from your families.—Juanita

I miss my screenporch.

I know every word to every song on Purple Rain.—Willie

I'm never leaving here.—Grasshopper, in front of the woodshop,

posing beside a coffin he built

This is a kicks' camp. Nothing positive come out of here except the

praying. Never been around this many women in my life. Never picked

up cursing before.—down for manslaughter, forty years

I've got three. One's seven. One, four. One, one.

I'm twenty-three. The way I found out is, I was in an accident with my

brother. He was looking at some boys playing ball. We had a head-on.

At the hospital, the doctor says, Miss, why didn't you tell us you

were pregnant. I'm pregnant? I wasn't afraid of my mama. I was afraid of

my daddy. I was supposed to be a virgin. He took it real good though.

The last time you was here I had a headful of bees.

See what I did was, I accidentally killed my brother.

He spoke without inflection.

Asked how many brothers and sisters did he have—

On my mother's side, two brothers, well now, one brother, and

two sisters.

On my father's side, fifteen sisters.

When I handed Franklin his prints, his face broke.

Damn, he said to no one, I done got old.

I kept a dog.

When you walk through Capricorn, keep your arms down and close to

your body.

That's my sign.

No, she can't have no mattress. No, she can't have no spoon.

See if she throwed her food yet.

No, she can't have no more.

I am only about thirty-four minutes from home. That's hard.

—George, field line seated on a bag of peas on a flatbed

My auntie works here, and two of my cousins. If I get in trouble,

get a write-up, my mama knows before supper.—George

My name is Patricia, but my real name is Zabonia, she spoke softly.

Some have their baby and are brought back on the bus the next day

and act like it doesn't bother them a bit. Some cry all the way. And for


That's hard.

I don't go there.

My mama was fifteen when she had me. That's common.

in the country.

Some can learn, and will be okay.

Some could stay in the class forever and not learn. S── when she was a

little girl was struck in the head with a machete, and I don't think she'll

learn much more...

She is so sweet. You wouldn't believe she had did all the things they say

she did.

Don't ask.

My mug shot totally turned me against being photographed.

I miss the moon.

I miss silverware, with a knife,

and maybe even something to cut with it.

I miss a bathtub.

And a toilet. With a lid. And a handle.

And a door.

When Grasshopper came to Big Gola his wife was pregnant. He saw the

baby once. Next when he was twenty. Now he's inside. In Texas. Second

time. But he's short now. He'll get out soon.

That's hard.

I don't go there.

I miss driving.

We're both here because of love.—Zabonia of herself and her best


I am highly hypnotizable.

I would wash that man's feet and drink the water.


This poem also appears at The Poetry Foundation.

Darren Angle