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Wednesday, December 25, 2019


by Jen Schneider

Prison lights shine as armed guards speaking in a foreign tongue
watch our every move. Five steps right. Two left. Eat, bathe, sleep.
Idle minds wander, thinking of sacred worlds outside and now out
of reach. Snatched quickly. Dreams of warm chicken broth, sizzling
beef, and crisp air evaporate. Quickly. Songs of pregnant red robins,
schoolyard children, and bustling roadways fade. Quickly.
Idle souls longing for coverage on local news in now foreign lands
that were once home. Thoughts wander then quickly snap to attention.
A single tear drops. Wiped away, quickly. No time for weakness.
Too much work to be done. Dry, chapped
hands work under camera focused eyes.
Tired hands fold parchment, count envelopes,
and seal plastic box lids. Twenty four cards
to a pack. Count - quickly. No more, no less.
Hurry. Faster. Quickly. Now.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In concrete cells with no wires to the world outside
and where commissaries sell no stamps.

Prison labor pleas
inked on holiday greetings.
Addressee unknown.

Questions of free will
inked on holiday greetings.
Seeking Christmas cheer.

Holiday surprise.
Do Not return to sender.
Forward message Please.


Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Her work appears in The Coil, The Popular Culture Studies Journal, unstamatic, Zingara Poetry Review, 42 Stories Anthology (forthcoming), Voices on the Move (forthcoming), Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.