Talking to the Inmates at Phillips State Prison about Marietta

Voice recording of the author reciting the poem.

There are handmade empanadas singing every morning—dusting the sidewalk. A small Ponce down the street that people won’t stop bringing tiny, old, dogs to. Every Juneteenth, there is a concert in the square—loud jazz on a small brick stage. There is a view of the South. This cotton candy twisted swing skirt heritage perched on a rocking chair. There are stain glass windows and so many birdfeeders. The coffee shop across from my house has four different hardwood floors. I think some might be linoleum. Whenever the baristas see me, they call me neighbor– see me walking. Once, I got pulled over for talking on the phone. Once, a Cobb County Police officer said that they only kill black people. There is a new trail to the cemetery; it rains so much that the concrete is stained red. Two winters ago, it snowed. I still had to walk to work. You know the French bakery across from the drugstore? That one. There is this one family that owns four of the biggest restaurants in the square. I talked to them last night about Uno. Almost all the bars have Uno. Even McCracken’s. Everyone remembers my dog’s name.

Declaration told me last month, after an inmate killed himself, a guard saw his shadow dance in the corner. New pale-yellow paint on all the walls. So much coffee in Styrofoam cups.