Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Women Writers' Workshop (for L.K.)

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Women Writers' Workshop (for L.K.)

Article excerpt

I had to stop my heart

when the gate swung open

so I could display identification

walk past cyclone wire and 20-foot fences

step around duck shit while

watching ducks flit and sputter on the moat

stretched along the length of fence

I approached every week

This routine

This perimeter

Inside the grip of brick and steel

chokes a teeming mass of women

Cook County Jail

where even heat stifles

I meet women in classrooms

with slits for windows

Some posters encourage them to read

another outlines the 12-step program

Rules posted everywhere

These women share stories

crafted and emptied on hoarded paper

with coveted pens

Women who know what it means to trade your body for hunger

Women who was tryin to feed they babies

Women who stabbed their man

because they couldn't stand his fist drumming

on their faces again

Women who just got they G.E.D.

Women who be mothers

Women who be girlfriends and wives

Women who want grilled cheese sandwiches

so they press bread on lights overhead

Women who stumble over words they read

who show each other how to say the words

who fill me up with their laughter

who gossip about who did what on the tier

Women who have a wife on the tier

Women who write letters to the boyfriend

whose name is tattooed on their neck

Women that you don't ask why they're here

Women who await court dates so they kick

through doors

like blaxploitation flick heroines and hermanas de la raza

So I stop my heartbeat when I see myself in what these women do. …

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