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John- June 2006 231

My first day leading the prison writing workshop: Carlos
complimented my choosing the chair nearest the door.

I read a poem by Whitman that once sent me hitchhiking
and Carlos stood up, asked to read a section from his four hundred-page work-in progress,

a poem that turns on his first finding Neruda’s “One Year Walk”;
he said it lit up the night like a perfect crime, so I left everything—

I had no choice—walked three thousand miles to the Pacific.
From memory he recited a passage in which his father left the family

a small fortune, all counterfeit: though I doubted the facts, I can still see
that worn briefcase, almost-perfect hundreds stacked neatly in shrink-wrapped packs.

I was young, it took me two weeks to accept that I could teach this lifer
nothing. World of concrete floors and everlasting light:

he was grateful to God who gave him a blazing mind not granted to anyone living or dead,
and wouldn’t have changed a word anyway.

__________

“Carlos” by Theodore Deppe. You’ll find it and other masterworks from Deppe in his collection Orpheus on the Redline.

I snapped the picture in Houston.

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