IS THAT A BUG IN MY DRINK?
I went to the mess hall and sat down to eat
Grits and potato and some kind of meat.
The meat in a gravy sauce lookin’ so fine.
Some called it turkey, I called it mine.
Mechanically separated—ow, sounds so painful.
Served up by a sergeant so loud and disdainful.
Two kinds of drink come up with this meal.
Neither of which has any appeal.
The white drink I’m sure is of some ilk,
Some say it’s soy while others say milk.
But the colored one—the origin of which
I’m not really sure but it smells like pine pitch.
Then the loud sergeant yelled, “DO NOT TALK!”
I sipped at the white drink, it tasted like chalk.
But the colored one, of hues that can change
Also contained a creature so strange.
I did lift it out with my red plastic spork,
As the powers-that-be trust us not with a fork.
I dropped it into a section of tray
Near a dollop of grits like a mountain of hay.
It stood on six legs so I know it’s a bug.
It coughed and it sputtered and started to chug
It coughed and it choked I began to think
The little bug had too much of that drink.
and the bug said:
“Well I’m so little and life’s such a gift
I really appreciate getting that lift …”
I stirred the meat and gravy and tater
And told the bug I’d talk with it later.
But it asked of the grits I said they’re not bad.
But I’d like them more baked, broiled, or fried.
It took a taste and said that I lied,
It laid on its stomach, and then on its side,
And from the grits, the little bug died.
Then the loud sergeant yelled, “EVERYONE”S THROUGH!”
I picked up my tray, then ate the bug too.
—from Rattle #76, Summer 2022
Tribute to Prisoner Express
Frank Olms: “During the mid-1960s, I became self-employed and, except for a few brief periods, had remained self-employed until 2011, when I became incarcerated: a bizarre change. While going through the court system for 30 months, I remained in a cell directly opposite the classroom. Some of the cellmates were attending a class on writing but possessed no creativity, so I started writing stories for them. One week I wrote three different stories on the same subject. And that started my creative writing. Each story was supposed to be about 400 words. I continued one story to 240 pages. To interject poetry was a natural extension to add some texture, feeling, and color.”