Shank (heroic couplet)


I was never made for this, Maryland of ‘87,

to sink, to eat into the flesh of committed men.

My brother, the knife, is the softer sort

made from soft and approved plastic, purposed for

dismembering tasteless chicken. But I,

a stir in some prison guard’s cup of caffeinated dye,

wasn’t meant to be in a surgical hand,

filed, teethed, honed for his courtyard plan

to square some beef with a child creeper

whose crimes reminded him of an old neighbor.


I was not made for sticking in someone’s jugular;

instead of spooning mash, I’m a kind of air stealer,

installed and ready in a breast pocket of lint and ripped words.

The surgeon says he hears conspiracies in metric thirds

so he cut up that neighbor as part of his therapy.

I’m an instrument, not an expert, so I don’t know this remedy.

He carefully cleaned me with the edge of a black shirt,

and hid me in an angry corner of his pissed-on cell dirt.


I’m tired of his bullshit spiel on Maryland of ’87;

it’s the same rehash about his justice on some felony men.

My brother worries about my nihilism setting in,

so I destroyed his beige eggshell softness; wherein

that wrong may be mine but no federal guard knows,

not when cheap Folgers roast clogs up their upturned nose.

Who was there to confiscate me after the first big blow?

A second time wouldn’t matter in the big house, though.

I was sharpened to serve his courtyard plan one afternoon,

but that poor man should have armed himself with something, too.


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