Jails Have ATM Machines Now

Plastic cards buy commissary and phone time.
For an extra three dollars
you can add a personal message
Don’t worry about us we’ll be fine
or We love and miss you
Happy Birthday
After we slide our credit cards
a woman behind us struggles
to shove in her few wrinkly dollar bills.

On the block the kids stay out all night
lining the stairs with hundreds of flaming prayer candles,
spray the walls for Poodie from two six,
Implore him in death to shine on.
Each night they bring
the biggest red heart balloons,
the kind sold for valentines and high school graduations.
They fill the street with beating heart cars
double-parked and spilling liquor in his memory.

When the phone rings you press five as fast as you can.
So as not to lose a precious moment of his voice.
You accept that he can only speak to you
on a police recording.
There are options, more money for more minutes.
You can buy them so he can’t call anyone but you.
You pay for time with no idea what words will fill it.
How many ways can you say love or absent.
You describe reaching for his side of the bed
using his chapstick because it’s the last thing
to touch the softness of his lips.
Lips, you fell on and into in a bar,
lips you woke to, like a life raft at sea.
Behind security glass cracked and dry,
they are an un-kissed desert.

You roll his chapstick on the thirst of your lips
until you reach the empty plastic.
You run your hands between your thighs
where he buried his face at night,
feel nothing but exhaustion.

Down the street the kids are rapping,
dressed up, passing blunts
blowing smoke at the unfair sky.
You place candles in your windows, burn sage.

You mourn with them.
You have suffered a kind of death also.

In the morning, you pour two cups of coffee,
empty his into the garden out back.
The dogs are bored with your sadness,
refuse belly rubs even when offered.
You look the dog straight in the eye,
share the disappointment of your own hand
because indeed, it is not his.

You internet-search the things you can and can’t send him.
These companies have made apps to send your money to jails.
These enterprises who make the packages you send your beloved,
the same who offer to send your college student modified food products.
You tell them all the ways to recreate crackers, ramen, and chips.
To pretend it is sustenance when in fact it is currency.
The first time you saw your son’s college dorm, it struck you:
the same companies build prison cells,
prisoners build the beds and desks in both,
to house your child, your man, perhaps yourself, one day.

Outside at the memorial they are barbecuing tonight.
You put chicken in the oven.
Can’t light charcoal without your grill man.
You tell yourself you must live,
you tell yourself to write,
wait his call, wait and wait, lose weight,
memorize the number that has replaced his name,
find his white dress shirt bought for the courtroom
limp in the dryer,
walk his letters to the mailbox,
tell yourself you are living,
a brain connected to a body,
a hand to put money in the machine.
A heart commodified,
a special message.
Don’t worry about us we’ll be fine



Cassandra DallettCassandra Dallett is out here trying to function. She has been published online and in many print magazines. Cassandra reads often around the San Francisco Bay Area. She hosts the monthly writing workshop, OnTwoSix, and the quarterly reading series, Moon Drop Productions. Her first full-length book of poetry, Wet Reckless (Manic D Press), was released in 2014. In 2015, she authored five chapbooks. One of them, On Sunday, A Finch (Nomadic Press), was nominated for a California Book Award. Look for her full-length collection, Collapse (Nomadic Press), in early 2018.




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© MARY: A Journal of New Writing, 2017