“Inside Voices”: Poetry from the Champaign County Jail

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In a class facilitated by educators, Rachel Lauren Storm, Becca Sorgert, and Meadow Jones, incarcerated men have participated in a weekly poetry lab offered at the Champaign County Jail since January of 2012. Inside Voices is a ongoing column of creative work produced in the class.

Edgar Allen Ode A man of melancholy infinite sadness
more genius than sadness?
Sadness and spite turned into a career
Nullifying his life with poetry
Ruining it with bad reviews
Helen o art though at his best
Alcohol at his worst
So a toast to Edgar and his ode

-Kyle Dale Hendrickson

Big Wheel
I made it around the corner,
turning left, I pedalled my legs off,
and I remember my legs were like butter

But it didn’t matter. I had to make it
back to my nana and paw-paw in Mahomet.
That long journey from Tolono,
I’m on Route 45. I’m makin’ tracks now
on my big wheel

Blue with all the decals and mog wheels,
the day was hot,
sweating off my brow.
I wiped off my brow with the sleeve
of my white tee

And I just kept on peddlin’.
I could see myself going over
that old bridge and turning
into their old circle driveway,
I just had to make it.

Then I heard,
Beep, beep. “Hey, son. Pull it over!”
I looked over my shoulder
and saw the cherries and the blueberries.
“Where you going boy?”

“To my nana and paw-paw’s house.”
Is there a law against that?
“Well, we can’t have it on my highway,”
he said, load me up, and took me away.
I was six.
It was my first arrest.

–Cary Kallembach

Lost Time
When history is stolen,
It’s heart wrenched from the meat of time,
It’s like a missing orange mango
from a stained fruit bowl;
a still life of bruised apples, squashed grapes,
and brown bananas left behind.

History becomes that old thunderbird out back,
with peeling white paint
and the parking lot bondo job,
coming apart in chunks,
weeds and grass hugging flattened tires.

It’s a big brother who you admire
but only comes around to wrestle you to the ground.

History becomes a love in an old photograph,
still smiling, still with that look,
but fading with the colors,
the eyes–like the smile.

It is an old rachet wrench coming apart in sections,
A moss covered anchor, a rusty machete
ready to slice into your head.
But when history is found–
because it can be stolen but nobody can destroy it.

-Jamie Johnson





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