Joanie, Lam: Blythewood, SC, 1990
For the inmates of the Broad River Men’s Correctional Facility
I accepted your collect phone calls, thinking
my parents must know you. I figured if Joanie
had killed a man with a steak knife in her
very own kitchen and my parents still hired her,
they might know all kinds of inmates.
The way she told it, smoking a Kool cigarette,
clad in acid-wash, hair dyed so black it looked
blue at the roots, she was cutting tomatoes
when he forced his way in, so she sliced
a doorframe into him and slipped right through.
When she ran away from the halfway house,
police showed up at our door and demanded
to know what we knew, which wasn’t much:
the bottles of sour-mash whiskey they found
in our cabinets surprised my parents, too.
But boys, men: I thought surely they’d come
to get the letters I promised when you called
and asked me to write, lonely like microphone
feedback from each and every one of you.
I liked the idea that I could make it go away
with words, but ultimately, they would find
nothing because I never wrote. You have to
understand. She was a woman. I knew her crime.