Prison Industrial Complex Explodes

By Mercedes Eng
Cover: Prison Industrial Complex Explodes - By Mercedes Eng

"Solid Cement Indians" (1988) by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. 213.3 x 164 cm, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the Buschlen Mowatt Nichol Foundation and Macaulay & Co. Fine Art, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Prison Industrial Complex Explodes
By Mercedes Eng
104 pp. Talonbooks 2017

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Carole is

Jessi’s mama
now a ghost mama
whispering into the ears
of the fertile red nation

plant seeds in the ground
and in the womb
ground zero for a revolution

she reads in the 2013 census report that since 2006
the Indigenous population increased from 3.8% to 4.3%
of the colonial nation
and she dances

knowing there are even more babies
ones who avoided becoming state stats
like Kanahus’s freedom babies
unregistered babes taken to the woods
knowing this she dances
and she puts her back into it

Passport - Prison Industrial Complex Explodes - By Mercedes Eng
All images credit of the author.

she packs her lunch
beefalo sandwiches
spread with a semi-solid emulsion
of vegetable fats and chlorinated tap water
SPA493 apple slices with high-fructose corn syrup dip
man, this apple named after the language group of her people
tastes good

he goes out for dinner
Wind Cave bison carpaccio to start
squawb for the main
dessert is going to be sweet and dark
honeyed with a blood centre
stick-in-your-teeth meat

he bites down hard
on a shard of bone
crushing a molar
infection ensues

immune to the contagion
she is taking swimming lessons
breaststroking through slipstreams of capital’s desire
hair garlanded with mutant Corallina vancouveriensis

Mercedes Eng with Father
All images credit of the author.

first metal detector

first Halloween costume

a white onesie with drawn-on black stripes
father’s prison ID no. 5915 on baby breast

first memory

first lesbians

guards who were so
kind let me bring in books to read
though they weren’t supposed to

first Waldorf salad

first exposure to art

called Indian craft
its production framed as money for the canteen

first exposure to my father’s art

also called craft converted to money for the canteen
his cigarettes and my favourite, Big Chief beef jerky

he carved the wooden tools
he used to engrave
owls mountain lions phoenixes wolves dragons
into copper sheets hammered thin as his brown flesh

homemade like the tools used to carve stories
into thin brown flesh
a tape-player motor a ballpoint pen

homemade like the tools used to erase stories
hammered into thin brown flesh and mind
a light bulb filament to puncture the skin
solace brought from outside inside a body

first horsey ride

first grim fairy tale

two brothers came to the prison
because they hurt a little girl
she was too small for them so they made her bigger
at lunch the guards walked out
and the prisoners sent the brothers to the hospital

Mercedes Eng
Mercedes Eng teaches and writes in Vancouver, on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories. She is the author of Mercenary English, a long poem about violence and resistance in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver.
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