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Letter to an Inmate



Wofford College, ’19
2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry: Editors List

I don’t really know what it’s like in prison,
but my sister was arrested for public intox,

hot night, rum and coke, frat bros. I don’t know
the sting of a needle in-and-out, inking skin,

but there’s an iris scribbled on my right hand
drawn in black pen. I’ll wash it off later.

Nothing’s permanent. Last night a mayfly crawled
out from under a smooth stone, shucked

the shell of its dark youth, flew off to find a mate,
died. I don’t know what it’s like in prison,

but I punched Owen Eberhart right in the soft spot
under his ribs, sucked the air out his lungs,

funny how his eyes seemed more blue with tears
in them, how strong his gasps made me feel,

grey day, wind whipping across the harbor, flag
pole noises, must’ve been March. I don’t know

what it’s like to hit a woman, but I shattered
the mirror on the bathroom wall after my parents

found the empty Corona Lights hidden behind the shed,
smashed the glass out with my elbow,

picked up each piece off the cold tile floor,
blood falling the length of my forearm.

You know broken glass. You know May,
spending the night at her house the first time,

thin sheets on the inflatable mattress her father
blew up for you in the living room. You know

waking in the middle of the night, how hard
it is to sleep under high ceilings, crossing over

to her room, how everything creeks
when you’re doing something you shouldn’t,

floorboards, tiles, her bed frame, parents two rooms
removed. You know summer, green mountains,

flecks of mica, thunderheads, rock labyrinth, prayer,
stinging nettle, scarlet tanager. You know

isolation, waiting for letters you’ll never get.
You know the wide-eyed tarpon in the aquarium.

You know Stephen Dunn’s collected works
on the back porch, late night runs

because it’s too hot to run in the day,
and if you sit still any longer the ivy

clinging to the awning might just swallow
you. You know senior year, your best friend

side-by-side with her everywhere: his beard, her braids,
his shoulders, her hips, his stride, her traipse,

in the ceramics studio, coming back
from Sunday brunch, swinging together

in the courtyard. You know relax we’re just friends
and stop being so jealous and you’re an asshole,

and have fun writing poetry the rest of your life.
You know kissing a friend from middle school

just to get your mind off the two of them,
this girl’s mouth small, tongue pushing

its way past your teeth, tastes like leftover lasagna,
wasted patience. You know walking new girl’s lab

afterwards, fire trucks lining the sad hospital
building on Ashley, everything red, red,

how your mind wanders back to that night in May,
the softness of arms, birthmarks forming constellations,

around collarbones, some astrological foretelling:
everything you love will become everything you hate.

Grant McClure is a Charleston, SC native and graduating senior at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. He plans on attending Wofford College in the fall. He’s previously published in Deep South Magazine, and received a Gold Medal for Writing Portfolio in the 2015 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. He enjoys fly-fishing in his free time.