Museum of Language & Place


The prison was at the end of a tree-lined drive in upstate New York. I was nervous, not about my first meeting with the penpal I’d been writing to since 1999, not about the other prisoners, but about the regulations and procedures and whether I’d be told I wasn’t dressed appropriately or get pulled aside for drug checks or something. The visiting room was like a cafeteria except the only food came from vending machines and I lost $1.50 because I was too inept to work them properly. I took my place at the assigned table, careful not to take the blue chair because those were reserved for prisoners.

Nine, in Malden, Massachusetts. “I did not bother trying to make sense of it all.”