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Standing behind a thick marigold line
waiting our turns to drop identification
into a small pass-through drawer,
together forming a community as we each
hope for a green light to enter the facility
to visit a friend or family member.
An African American family — a young mother
with a little girl and little boy.
Her excited toddler son hoisted onto
Grandpa’s shoulders as a distraction.
Dimples lie deep in creamy caramel cheeks.
Red white blue and black high-tops
match his starched plaid shirt.
I wonder if between visits he remembers
his father. His smell. His touch. His longing.
A tall, willowy white woman is next up.
“I don’t have any idea what I’m doing,”
she says to the worker, an ill-defined shadow
behind smoky dark glass.
“I’ve never been here before.”
Behind dear Darlene and me are
two redheads: a kindly graying man
with his disabled, adult daughter, her short fuchsia hair
hopelessly struggling to lie flat against
her ghostly white scalp.
When we get to the window, I offer
my driver’s license and a clearance number
a friend obtained for me.
“This is a volunteer clearance,” the Captain explains.
“You can go to chapel but you aren’t cleared
to visit an individual prisoner.”
Darlene is crestfallen, sad as am I.
“You go on,” I assure her.
“We’ll come back again.”