Notes outside West County Detention Center
The collective body sends out magnetized
curved energy to the west, it snags in the teeth
of the field daisies & on the hemlock
Socrates maybe ate,
it circles to where some stand in useless protest
under windows where the immigrants are locked
& can’t hear. Grinding smoke from
On Fridays gray is slower.
Some actions rule out rest, money for jobs or being dead
& there is mostly little news of danger here.
A white moth
drops to the asphalt, carries the suffering on two
of its gray
specks. No sign of life from the jail.
What do we mean, sign of life.
There is some dust among us from before
the sun was made, it fell in great slashes
seen by first peoples here, we place these slashes
on the instrument of time/// The sheriff’s men were
later immigrants, they touch their stupid guns,
they become magnetized
with their elbows in 7s. Some hate their jobs, some like
policing for the state. If love were kept
from hurt it might bend metal. The families
stand under the overhang while the perhaps
200 are inside for something like a traffic ticket.
ICE gave Sheriff Livingston money for each prisoner.
By the time this poem is revised he ends the contract,
The protests have become expensive for the county
but too late, for, though i don’t believe
in hell i have placed the Sheriff’s non-remorseful
soul in a circle of non-souls,
Dante would know what to call them, there is spare
ice far down in his hell of course
but in my terza non-rima i will
simply lock the Sheriff’s non-remorseful soul in
@@@ signs & burning ampersands &&&&
where it can circle
in fumes till he apologizes. The immigrants will be
moved to Stockton or Nevada, profits will rise
& as i told Alan
it’s not that protests are useless, it’s that
some usefulness is too American.
In tract homes nearby, black, brown & white
children lower their heads over video games.
By the time this is revised the immigrants
have been moved
to what knows where & families
don’t know where they’ve gone. That’s why we call
some evil the non-soul. Centuries pass,
invasive but non-imperialist species are heaped
in the field, useless magnetized
energy snags in the teeth of the daisies—
Brenda Hillman is author of 10 collections from Wesleyan University Press, most recently Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (2018), Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (2013), and Practical Water (2011). She has co-edited volumes by Richard O. Moore and has recently co-translated At Your Feet, the poems of Ana Cristina Cesar (Free Verse Editions, 2018). She lives in the Bay Area and is Olivia Filippi Professor of Poetry at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. http://brendahillman.net/index.html