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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

Writing Right Through It: Poet Seth Wieck Reads New Work Online TONIGHT

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If you're feeling like you need some top-notch poetry in your life right now, mark your calendar for TONIGHT. As WT kicks off the Dorothy Patterson Poetry Series, they are featuring a treasure of the Texas Panhandle: writer, educator, and all-around rad dude, Seth Wieck. You can join the reading, which is ONLINE at 7 pm CT this evening via Zoom. To get the link, email Dr. Eric Meljac here and he'll send it straight away. A big thanks to Seth for his time, and see below for the text of the poem he read today on High Plains Morning. If you'd like to hear the full interview, click the link below.

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A Corrections Officer Quarantines at the Clements Unit

By Seth Wieck

On the northeast side of Amarillo

thirty-seven hundred violent inmates

are quarantined for crimes such as murder—

capital and multiple— continued

abuse of a child, indecent and lewd

exposure, several habitual burglars,

assault— on disabled persons, spouses and mates.

Each sentenced from four years to life without parole. No

death chambers here, though. Human depravity

has a scent: poorly ventilated cell

blocks and a diet of foul prison food.

The air thick, dyspeptic, smears the concrete

passages with a humid plaque. The mete

between men doesn’t exist. We have chewed

each other’s stench, coughed each other’s phlegm, pell-

melled our wasted cells. Outside, the city

cannot hear the coughing, the liquid gasp,

the odd kind of sympathy to cough in kind.

They cannot feel the twice-breathed air syncopate.

Barometric pointers beat as though they were a metronome.

In twelve hours, I’ll punch the clock and go home,

after I count the sick, watching men expectorate

on the floors. At hour twelve, I’ll find

mucus on my uniform. With the venom of an asp,

I’ll kiss my kids when I get home and dream

that every mouth was stopped. The whole world

held accountable.

~ First published in The Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas.