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My Cousin Attempts Suicide In Gander Hill Prison

ISSUE:  Spring 2001
Today in solitary, stripped-down,
he bashed his head
         against the cell wall
until there was a risen welt and blood.
The guard gave him an ice pack;
once alone, he tore it open
          and drank
the thick blue liquid. My mother calls to tell the story
and quickly changes the subject, complains
about the cornfield newly cut
             to stubble
and how the mice pour
          into the old farmhouse
like water
     through each small crack.
Even a farmhouse can leak
            and sink
into dry earth. She says, Nothing is water-tight.
I agree, Some things are out of our hands.
It feels good to say, but isn’t entirely true.
I remember how as a boy in summer,
                 he never cupped
the lightning bugs, hands match-lit,
but smeared
      their bodies’ electric oil
on his bare chest, his arms,
              how he ran
through the tall corn,
calling to us before stepping out
                into the yard,
before standing—arms-wide, howling—
like a leper
      with glorious glowing wounds.


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