Dispatch #043

Two Poems

By Cassandra Dallet

Body Count Fourth of July

July 2-4, 2020


The days are marked with death tolls
infection rates 
blazing red states 
and a barrage of bomb-like fireworks
San Quentin has over a thousand infected 
just over three thousand imprisoned there 
the infection comes out of the same prison 
my boyfriend moved from
he was in a dorm of medically compromised 
mostly older prisoners 
many of them are dead now
or on the brink  

people want to move on 
to unmask to congregate 
we all do 
but the reasoning 
or lack of 
the conspiracy theories 
ignoring the rest of the world
we medical professionals 
have relied on masks and gloves 
against death 
our whole work lives
but are called fearful and foolish
it’s exhausting
my heart is pinballing around my chest
the street outside exploding
with my nervous system

in the prison he was moved to
they can only guess 
at contact tracing
at cells and gymnasiums made into makeshift morgues 
who will have access to ventilators 
when the time comes 
if they will go to hospital at all
the guards won’t wear face masks 
they come and go from the outside world
get in your face    and  
    nobody cares about the incarcerated 

those of us 
who need them like oxygen 
who wait impatiently for word each day
write letters and whisper prayers 
that they can shelter 
in the places 
where they belong
that they come home 
where they belong 

baby please come home 
where you belong


They’re building a morgue at the prison

That’s what the rumors say. 
Free staff at the C building 
are down with the virus
It’s coming silent up the hill.
It's quietly here already. Incubating,
simmering, waiting to ignite.
They’re putting bunks in the gymnasium
are they taping squares six feet apart?
Are they for the infected 
or the non? 
And will there be any consideration 
for his asthmatic lungs?
24 hour lock down they say. 
Endless days in a pod with nitpicking lifers.
Some shifts the CO’s lock them down.
Some shifts act like nothing’s wrong.
On lock down he cannot use the phone.
No one will know 
until after the plague comes.
No word will reach us to say hey I’m sick 
I need help and there is just this skinny fence 
and miles between— 
us every dry cough is terrifying.
It’s a hella of a time to start hot flashes. 
So cold this spring, so hungry. 
When you have to move around 
you’re a target like me.
When you can’t move around 
you’re a sitting duck like him.
How do you prepare yourself from a jail tier? 
The rumors flying faster than infection. 
One’s mind is a battlefield. 
Even the lifers never really 
planned to die here.


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