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A Poem: Prison Sangha 

The paring knife slips under the skin.
Eases under black-purple wrinkles, loosens
the dry casing. Slices into lush musculature.
Cuts through miniscule juice-bearing
veins.

The knife runs around the scalp, removing the final
brittle tuft of hair, and then descends
to the belly. Amputates the
shriveled umbilical, the last lick of the mother
tongue.

In beets up to our elbows, we are talking
about death row. I say, Kogen once told me
that, when convicted for murder, he spent
eight months in solitude counting the
breath.

The irony is not lost on me: I too am here
to learn about impermanence.
Before the meal, I bow at the altar. My clasped hands,
stained with juice, rise like a low red
moon.

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