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Kevin Ridgeway

BRAIN MATTER

chow time came
before the sun went
down on L.A. County Jail,
where people try
to trade shots
of instant coffee
for fruit in order to make pruno.
I had just been taken off
suicide watch and had been
stuffed into a yellow
mental health
smock for dings
like us or whatever else
the deputies laughingly called us.
Everyone’s favorite meal
was called brain matter,
our tray canvasses
decorated in gray
hamburger and
a decadent brown
mystery sauce
over curly noodles.
We slurped from
other inmates’ scraps
of a kind of meat
we couldn’t beat
after lights out
and we all passed out
fat, happy and behind bars.
I started to almost miss
the god forsaken place
in the cab headed away
from downtown LA
en route to the suburb
where my uncle
reluctantly said
I could sleep
on his couch.
That night I had to start
proving that my brain
mattered more than
the way I treated it
with the disintegration
of what I was really made of:
the armor I inherited
with a straight poker face
and everything my father
taught me in his old prison
stories of bad food,
toilet hooch, racism,
murder, riots, lock down
and solitary confinement,
but he never mentioned
brain matter, which
I want to ask him
about while lung cancer
brings his life sentence
to a close as he digests
his last supper and the epic
wrongs of his life
over a glass of toilet hooch
he uses to forget and come
as close to death in hot pursuit
of the double dragon
who ran off with my
father’s brain to another
place that doesn’t matter. 

Kevin Ridgeway lives and writes in Long Beach, CA. He is the author of the poetry collection "Too Young to Know" (Stubborn Mule Press). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, San Pedro River Review, Main Street Rag, Trailer Park Quarterly, The Cape Rock, Spillway, Up the River, Suisun Valley Review, KYSO Flash, Home Planet News, Cultural Weekly, Big Hammer, Misfit Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry and So it Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.

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