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Volume 3 | Issue 1 | September 2008 | 

Teaching In Prison
Diane Kending

We enter the sally port at the bzzt of the current
Briefly releasing the iron that soon thuds shut
Everything goes into boxes for inspection,
Our bodies go into the metal detection box.
If it goes off, we go in again without shoes, belts, or barrettes,
Really, really letting out hair down
The second bzzt lets us inside the razor-wire fence.
We walk to the building to begin our passage.
Inside the first gate two women in a glass booth
Release the lock electrically.
We walk to the second gate that opens into a cage we’re locked into
While the person in the glass booth counts
Before letting us out with what’s called “the general population”
We parade half the circumference of this pentagon
To reach a locked door we get beyond
To arrive in the dining hall with its particular odor
Most like broccoli left in a microwave overnight
We reach the fifth locked gate and just after it,
The second locked door, which is locked like all the rest.
We unlock it and enter a hallway gray with smoke
From the men who stand with cigarettes in one hand,
In the other, waves and salutes we return to them
In the haze lit up from the honeycomb
Of classroom doorways ajar, so open
We’re stunned into arrival as we cross
These thresholds into accounting, computing, and composing

*First published in Minnesota Review. 1995.

Diane Kendig has authored three chapbooks, most recently Greatest Hits, 1978-2000 (Pudding House). Her poetry and prose have appeared in over a hundred journals, currently in the online journals Babel Fruit, Poemeleon, and Umbrella, as well as anthologies such as Letters to the World and Those Winter Sundays: Female Academics and their Working-Class Parents.
Writing here in Thanalonline reflects her interest in poetry workshops for the public, one of which she facilitated for over 18 years in a medium security prison, along with workshops in public schools and a national park. A translator, she was a Fulbright lecturer in translation for a year in Nicaragua, where she has returned to conduct workshops in prison and neighborhood centers. She currently lives in Lynn, Massachusetts with her partner of 22 years, Paul Beauvais. Her website is http://dianekendig.com/









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