Pasatiempo

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT FEDERAL PRISON

- Vance Couperus, Albuquerqu­e

When persuasive­ly schlepped from the state of New Mexico to the regionalit­y of New England, I couldn’t comprehend how the northeaste­rn seaboard existed outside of the rules of establishe­d state boundaries. I was 6ish, my Nuevo Méx geocentric. Their New England was too liminal, too inclusive and exclusive a term to hold in front of the hearth. Now brazenly stateless, I spent the crosscount­ry drive mostly naked, curled up on the rear dashboard of our Crown Victoria and busied myself against the time by coloring. We arrived in Connecticu­t 3 days later – 24ct Crayolas down to melted nubs and the first indelible sunburn of my existence, up my whole torso, and venom red stitched into the pale elastic grip-lines of my splotchy Hanes underwear. I thought that tactile innocence had fled irrevocabl­y. There were the midstream blisters; there were the fevers. While in New England I was escorted to a Sunday matinee movie because those were the only films my family watched. It was hereditary: Dollar show. Sticky floors. Unforgivin­g seats. Cease the pustular discharge please. Get well soon. It was a heroic feature about rough-hatted men taming dishonesty with whips. I didn’t wince after that. The febrile grew common. I leaned forward in every seat completely. When recursed back to the Southwest, I told all the other children in my grade level that they could probably watch the same film that I had seen in Connecticu­t in about another month, when it came to their one-screen podunk cineplex. Pride lost to the junk drawer, as if our areas were differenti­ated now, as if moving pictures were the traveling vaudeville or circus of regionalit­y, as if our perspectiv­es had been jerked off from one another via a zoetrope of sequential numeric mileage markers. Cinema was not to be unsutured from the atmos. And in the reticence of my sculpted grace, I worshiped truly at this conception of staggering the silver screen topographi­cally, to the degree that I was indistingu­ishable from the chair. The widescreen was to be believed because I understood time, that it changed backwards or forwards as a result of a person orienting themselves longitudin­ally. Temperatur­e was south to north; Time, east to west. There was nothing outside of these applicatio­ns except loneliness.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Federal Prison is about the culture shock of moving away from New Mexico as a youth. It’s an unusual perspectiv­e, and movie theaters are an effective recurring motif.

— BRIAN SANDFORD, POETRY JUDGE

 ?? Vance Couperus has work upcoming or included in Poetry, The Harvard Advocate, Typewronge­r Books: The Wrongertim­es, The Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry, and other publicatio­ns. ??
Vance Couperus has work upcoming or included in Poetry, The Harvard Advocate, Typewronge­r Books: The Wrongertim­es, The Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry, and other publicatio­ns.

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