Faculty Off-Site: Folsom Prison

By Jeanine Stevens


Clearing security: rings, keys, buckles.

One needs multiple passes

to disentangle a complicated

hairdo, hairpins triggering alarms.


I think of the old trick: key-hole saw

hidden in a birthday cake.


Walking into a smudge of denim,

so many who won’t receive training,

a week’s severance pay.


(We later learn this was a misdirect—

no outsiders allowed in the open yard).


Steel cuts air.


In a classroom we witness

an experiment in recidivism:

short testimonials, brief coffee.


Officials arrive, escort us outside granite walls.

In the visitor’s dining hall lunch is steak

with serrated knife, potatoes, green beans

and sweet nubby Gherkins.


One of our colleagues, raised in Lebanon,

is unable to eat, or speak.

No one wants apple pie.


Noon sun steams black.

Tower guards resemble dark squares,

lean like cardboard cut-outs.


I will remember the blaze of blue.

We were told not to wear blue.




Jeanine Stevens is the author of Inheritor (Future Cycle Press), and Sailing on Milkweed (Cherry Grove Collections). Winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt (selected by Phil Levine), The Stockton Arts Commission Award, The Ekphrasis Prize and WOMR Cape Cod Community Radio National Poetry Award. Brief Immensity, recently won the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award. Poems have appeared in The Curator, Evansville Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Chiron Review, Forge, Pearl, Stoneboat, Connecticut River Review, Provincetown Magazine and Rosebud. Jeanine recently received her sixth Pushcart Nomination. She studied poetry at U.C. Davis and California State University, Sacramento.

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