“Word Perfect,” “and sometimes: a poem about incarceration quarantine” and “Volta”

“Word Perfect,” “and sometimes: a poem about incarceration quarantine” and “Volta”

Word Perfect

i am outside in the oven

chin ups and dips

and laps[e] in the grass

around the poured concrete

and picnic tables bolted down

with music in factory

ear buds playing loud

enough to drown

the chatter of fat, angry men

i shake off the swelter in

the negative pressure vestibule

between outer doors

blowing hard to keep the virus

in or out or something

about the epistles i read

with my cereal

about love between men

and basketball had a poet's ear

and rhythm to it

i have a new brother who

teaches me poems and

riddles my ego-yearn

for 'perfect' words

with coy query and heart

warming focus on my

desire for perfect verse to

find its way out of me

into the world

i have not seen him since

the before-fore time when

class happened every

wed nes day night

after night i compile my

work into something that

smells more like art than

smoldering garbage

i find the throwaway work

his writing exercises

his warm ups

have the better bones to

build from, to add flesh

and breathe life

and make whole

and knit together with

ramshackle purpose

belief in the something just

below the surface

i see upon the jailers' desk

the resistance who live

in the 'education' department

have left me a dictionary

(from which i mine my 'perfect' words)

plus one envelope with two books

poetry collections – from my older

younger teacher brother –

one of which is by the man

who wrote the basketball letters

in the magazine from breakfast

i am cooling by the fan

in a poured concrete room

in a steel bunk bolted down

with music in factory

ear buds playing soft

enough to allow

my morning to inhere

funny how the threads find

their way through fences

and lockdowns and quarantine

and make moments perfect

and words.

and sometimes: a poem about incarceration quarantine

and sometimes I gaze into the blue eyes of a pretty girl

stirrings and memory of a life lived blissful and over

blue eyes labyrinth inscrutable vacuum

how marvelous would you feel knowing there was no bottom but me

and sometimes the horizon stays distant for a reason

roads less travelled than indifferent

voice lilting amid percussion and production

samples in real time lift by bare breath

and sometimes I welcome the sensation of your hand slipping away

a way to feel remembered precarious

without water my face dries

without water my skin dies

and sometimes it is enough to pretend I am sick in an other way

there is no difference in the death touching me

it is the death that was always coming

it is the death by any other name and no less sweet


Township towers of no more than four stories loom from

broken window skeleton after broken window skeleton.

If the city had teeth they would be black pulpy stumps with shards

of enamel poking out of swollen and distended gum.

Chalky talc tasteless billows plumes in a wheeze

every time the wind blows through.

I would kick in each door desperate for any sign

of life but silence like a dead dog warns of what I might find.

Run ragged down the main drag to give the clammy

smallness of my back a cause for the sweat I already feel.

At the end of the block I blink back to the start where I start over

like it won't let me leave except to die.

Reset each straight line lap opposite the end where I end up

clutching through vomitous collapse.

Madness strikes in flashes, visible light warps, a reminder like

a fun house mirror, bent to distort my wandering I.

There are no closing bars to whistle amid headstones

or shallows full with drain water I could drink or drown.

I will not wake away bitter quandary or nightmare

augmented reality toward awareness bloom.

Mourning glory flicker yellow grey, casting shadows over

bodies at rest on the forty years asphalt sea gone calm.

About the Author

Will Anderson

Will is a Queer artist incarcerated in Faribault, MN.