By Theodore Deppe b. 1950 Theodore Deppe
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.

Source: Poetry (September 1998).


This poem originally appeared in the September 1998 issue of Poetry magazine

September 1998


Poet, teacher, and nurse Theodore Deppe was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. He worked as a registered nurse for many years before becoming a full-time writer and teacher. His poetry collections include the chapbook Necessary Journeys (1988) and the full-length collections Children of the Air (1990), The Wanderer King (1996), Cape Clear: New & Selected Poems (2002), and Orpheus on the Red . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Friends & Enemies, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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