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Monday, November 22, 2010


by Bonnie Naradzay           

Lunch today for the inmates means white bread
and a slice of baloney.  Dinner is more of the same.
The limit now – two meals a day to stay in budget.
The jail’s run by a profit-making corporation.
Vending machines hold other selections,
like undated Twinkies and cinnamon buns.
Immigration rents beds here
for young, married Chinese women
without papers, only fake passports they bought in haste.
Fearing reprisals, they fled the provinces, their homes and families.
For one bore a child after marrying too young, at twenty,
and another had a second child, a girl.
One has an abscessed tooth. 
As a volunteer, I write down her plight,
mainly that she cannot pay a Chinese-speaking lawyer
in New York City, her only hope, or even call long distance,
collect.  I read her confession, search for gestures.
The budget does not fund dental work, I’m told.
What’s more, they charge for aspirin.
The next one, wearing the same ink-blue pajamas
and plastic shower shoes,
holds her stomach, speaks of constant pain.
The doctor comes once a month
and sees only those who signed up long before.
The system weeds out malingerers, the female warden says,
handing me a sheaf of small-print regulations.

Bonnie Naradzay
 lives in the Washington D.C. area, earned her MFA in poetry from Stonecoast (University of Southern Maine), and has published in numerous print and online journals.