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“When It Is Over It Will Be Over”, and Saturdays at Reynolds Work Release
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“When It Is Over It Will Be Over”, and Saturdays at Reynolds Work Release

“When It Is Over It Will Be Over”

after a pen and ink drawing by Troy Passey
of a line by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Hurricane of what must be            only feeling, this painting’ssentence circling to black

on blank, ever-            tightening spiralof words collapsing

to their true gesture: meaning            what we readwhen not reading,

as the canvas buckles            in the damp: freckledlike the someone

I once left sleeping            in a hotel room to swimthe coast’s cold shoals, fine veils

of sand kicked up by waves where            I found myself enclosedin light: sudden: bright

tunnel of minnows            like scatterings ofdiamond, seed pearl whorled

in the same            thoughtless thoughtaround me: one column of scale [End Page 38]

turning at a moment’s decision,            a gesture Iwas inside or out

of, not touching but            moving inaccord with them: they

would not wait for me, thickening            then breaking apart as I slidinside, reading me

for threat or flight by the lift            of my arm, as allthey needed to know

of me was in the movement:            as all this sentencebreaks down to O’s and I’s,

the remnants of someone’s            desires or mine so thatno matter if I return

to that cold coast, they will            never be there: the minnowsin their bright spiraling

first through sight, then            through memory,the barest

shudderings of sense:            O and Iparting the mouth with a cry

that contains—            but doesn’t need—any meaning. [End Page 39]

Saturdays at Reynolds Work Release

I remember never being afraid because they saidthe crimes they’d committed were small,because when they locked each man alonein the room with me—nineteen, thin as a childbeside the smallest of them—with their booksand pads of paper and sharpened pencils, onlya tiny window that looked out into the hallwhere no guard stood, I could see

the boredom and the shyness on their faces, these menfresh from prison but still waitingin one building, in Pioneer Square, in Seattle, in winter

where every Saturday it rained, a factwe hardly saw ourselves but heardin the drumming against the roof’s beams and in the wetsqueak of someone’s soles down the hall

where I would teach them wordsthey would or would not use, going overwith one man, who was twenty-five but readas well as a fourth grader, pages of Genesisso he could learn the terms

firmament and plenitude; his agate eyesflicking over pages that lookedrecently unearthed: phrases to be practicedat his new job, which was to drive a forkliftfor Weyerheauser, because it was the Bible

he wanted first, as another man wanted LouisL’Amour and a third asked for the back issues of Timemagazine someone left in AA on the chairs. And it was

not frightening, no, not even when one man saidhe’d made tapes of letters that he would send me, recordingsof his thoughts that spooled in the dark in the newdormitory where he couldn’t sleep, its locked doors [End Page 40]

but open windows, the insomniac moonpeering in on the skinny desk clerk who checked himin or out, who called the C.O. if he misseda meeting, learning to movefrom bed to work to group to lights out, but notto outside the building to stand aloneand smoke a cigarette. And what did he feel

those nights, listening to the rain a wall away,the cars that drove by in the dark, each steeredby someone smoking, singing, driving until morning

came with its cramped room, its yellow books to stutter over:firmament, the men spelled out, plenitude, gunslinger,

working until the locked door rattled openand I got up because it was time for meto leave, the sounds of cafés and movie theaterswelling up behind me. So close,I told them, when they got a word

less wrong, as if disciplinemade...