In the Penal Colony

A poem by Charles Kell

In the Penal Colony

The bucket job is mine.
Sopping up the muck
then cleaning the mop strings.

They give me extra things: bits
of brown paper, a little
plastic ring to hold my letter

I got two years ago. Sickness
creeps over my body often.
They give me a softened piece

of wax to plug my ears against
the din. I still hear rattling bars,
the beating of hard metal

against a concrete wall. A traveler
might wander down the wrong
road and end up here. He can

have the top bunk. He can have
my mop. I will give him a name,
show him where to begin,

show him how to put the wax in.

Charles Kell is a PhD student at The University of Rhode Island and editor of The Ocean State Review. His poetry and fiction have appeared, and are forthcoming in The New Orleans Review, The Kentucky Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, and elsewhere. He teaches in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

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