you walk in and show your ID

you sign the book     time in 5:37 pm

you pick up your badge

drop your quarter and put your wallet

your watch your keys and phone in the locker

you place your notebook and pencils

your belt and shoes and coat in the x-ray tub

walk through the metal detector

reclaim your belt and shoes and coat

your notebook and your pen

they stamp the back of your hand

you wait till the door buzzes and clicks open

you walk

you wait till the first gate buzzes and clicks

you walk

you wait till the second gate buzzes and clicks

you walk fifty yards under the umbrellas of razor wire

past the towers the shadows to enter the classroom block

you stop and hold your hand under the black light

you go in sit down

and wait for the dozen men in forest green to arrive

you give the first writing prompt   my gift

you wait ten minutes and one man comes to the microphone

my gift he says and wipes his face then reads

the wife called yesterday

she said our baby walked

my baby said I walk daddy I walk

that’s good baby that’s real good     he pauses

this was my gift he says and sits down

and when class was over

I said goodbye to the men who lived there

then walked through the first gate

walked through the second gate the door

I heard the buzzers and the metal clicking tight

held my hand under the black light

took my badge off

crossed my name off     time out 8:17 pm

got my things from the locker

put the quarter back in my pocket

and walked out

I put my coat on

and I walked out

About Bruce Dethlefsen

About Bruce


Bruce Dethlefsen, Wisconsin Poet Laureate (2011-2012), has three full-length books of poetry published, Breather (Fireweed Press, 2009), Unexpected Shiny Things (Cowfeather Press, 2011), and Small Talk (Little Eagle Press, 2014). He volunteers in Wisconsin prisons doing poetry workshops. A member of the Big Talkers blues band and the Prairie Sands Band, Bruce lives in Westfield, Wisconsin.

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