“What Did Prison Smell Like?”

—question asked by Andrea Fekete


Driving through central Pennsylvania,
cornfields, early summer, when
heat swills the air with manure.
Turn up the a/c in your broken Ford
or close the vents—it doesn’t make a difference.
Stink for miles left & right,
mixed with chemicals,
toxic pesticides that burn the eyes
like fumes of bleach. Also,
somewhere someone smokes tobacco
rolled in a fallen oak leaf.
He thinks he’s being sneaky.
You know he’s there but never see him,
hidden in the endless emerald rows.



“What Have You Shared?”

—question asked by Jennifer Hall-Farley


Do you remember opening my mail?
How your nails pierced the seal,
pricked the fold, a peeling more tender
than the foil wrapper on a chocolate bar.
I watched you unsheathe a page,
snatch-purse lifting my fortune from a cookie.
I felt as if we were having an affair,
waited while you read the note.
Your lips fluttered, mouthing yes.
“Acceptance,” you said. “Is it always
that easy?” It wasn’t. “Lucky,”
I said. “Send your message out &
suffer hope until the answer comes.”



“What Stranger Miracles Are There?”

—Walt Whitman, “Miracles”


Prisoner freed after twenty-six years
because DNA said please.
Every day another: twenty, thirteen,
thirty to life. The test didn’t exist
when they were labelled rapist,
murderer, anything but innocent.
What if classic fairy tales got their stories wrong?
Witches wanted company,
parents abandoned their children
because youth would be best served in woods,
wolves hung back while
princes slaughtered grandmas with an ax?
All reported wasn’t the case.
Facts blurred inside a prosecutor’s lies.
Now these fresh free men
parade across the nightly news.
They choke up as they whisper words
relieved & blessed, when what
they mean is, Look at the clock—
it’s getting later than you even know.





Ace Boggess is author of the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016) and two books of poetry, most recently, The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014). Forthcoming is a third poetry collection: Ultra-Deep Field (Brick Road). His poems have appeared in Harvard Review, Rattle, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly, and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.