When Will You Be Off Paper?

by Ace Boggess

—asked by Jesse Counts

The cons refer to parole as “paper” &
work hard—the ones that do work hard—
to get themselves “off paper,”
to me such an awkward concept,
having spent my life trying
to be on paper, jotting notes
on earth scenes & the colors of the sky. Look,
there’s my byline under Felonies Committed,
followed by not so much a verse
as a litany of ideas, then a lengthy bio. So,
now that my year is up &
there’s a chance—just a chance,
just as justice is left to chance—
this paper life might unlock
its flimsy shackles. How wondrous &
stupefying must the future be? Yet,
not as scary as that first day on parole:
the walking through gates,
the driving away, not looking back
for reasons given in all myths
of the underworld. The cons
don’t call that being “off stone,”
despite so many years
of cold granite floors,
likewise steel & razor wire.
They only speak of it,
when they speak of it at all,
as “out of here.”

Ace Boggess is the author of two books of poetry: The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014) and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled (Highwire Press, 2003). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, Atlanta Review, RATTLE, River Styx, Southern Humanities Review and many other journals. He currently resides in Charleston, West Virginia.