Home  •   About Us  •   Catalogue  •   Author Gallery   •   Contact  •   News  •   Resources

Rina Terry

By The River, Or Under The Bridge

she said. It’s hard, you know, when
there’s nothin’ but the river, in summer,
or under the bridge when it rains, is
the only place you got. I guess it’s why
I couldn’t take it no more, ended
up in that ward, you know. It was nice
to take a shower and put on clean
clothes, to have a bed for a while
and eat every day. If I could only
have done better before, I might not
have so far to go now, right? It’s okay,

’cause after the hospital, welfare’s
gettin’ me an apartment and Good Will
vouchers I can use to get some nice
furniture. It’ll be real nice now, me
and him will be okay, and he’ll stay
straight and you can come over to
see us. We’ll be okay now, right?

Yeah, I ain’t been around cause of
I shoulda got up and stayed with
him. I didn’t hear him go out,
just come back, and I told him
lay down now, and sleep, but
he didn’t wake up. Overdosed
before, but we always got there
in time. I had to do everything,
you know, the funeral and all,
cause I’m all he had. No one
else, at all, no one. He never had
a chance, did he? And, I don’t want
ever to go out or see nobody now,
but maybe I’ll come sometimes,
cause you treated us like people,
remembered our names and all,
gave us that ride that time. Maybe
once in a while I’ll try to come back
and do your church thing some time,

This poem first appeared in Press 1 (2008).


At Home in Hell

Lifers understand me best
these days, they say, apartment, not cell,
and the jitterbugs, the gladiators,
make us both twitch. There’s no point
in trying to explain it all, unless you appreciate
the perfected rhythmic sway of a shackled walk
and the dignity of the thick leather belt that holds it
all together at the wrists. Except for those beat down

one too many times, some toothless because
they can’t get fillings here, only extractions
and there’s the art of being extracted—specialty
training at the Academy. Darth Vader gear a tip-
off—there’s trouble on the tier. Someone tripped
and fell through a third-tier window, into the yard,

gets 172 stitches and disappears North for
Ad Seg. Later you hear the rumor he’s dead
or worse. Got himself a woman on the inside,
then you know, his last appeal was one turn down
too many, parole, just one hit after another,
he tells his lady to fa’get about it. Move on

with her life. Now Juan’s back, his lady will phone me. Beg me
to call him out and talk to him. She’ll tell me about the kids,
how they are crying to go see their papi, how she truly loves
him. She will wait as long as it takes. Juan, he’s usin’ again;
I see the junkie sweat, even though he cleaned up, used oils

for our date and put his khaki’s between Mass Movement’s
mattresses, to press a crease in his pants. I have hot water, a rule
I break every day, and offer him herbal tea. He gave up caffeine
two bids ago, says it makes him mind when they push up
and that’s dangerous. We remember how he slit Chico’s throat
with a box cutter, though neither of us mentions it today;
we talk about my publication and he nods in approval, Mi
Reverenda, he says, gruff with affection. High praise; I blush.

This poem first appeared in Qarrtsiluni (2011) and will appear in her forthcoming Texture volume, The Cardboard Piano.

Texture Press
1108 Westbrooke Terrace, Norman, OK 73072