On Confinement

I sit across the table from my partner
        in the atrium of the psychiatric holding facility

                our hands churched into our laps. We are not allowed
to touch. The air between us thick as Perspex.

                        They tell me all the ways this place resembles a prison.

                Everything a sterile white
                        so clean it could almost disinfect
                                a memory.

        In 1787,
                Jeremy Bentham conceived of what would become
                the most common prison design:

                        the panopticon.

                Intended to control prisoners through the illusion
                that they are always under surveillance.

My partner tells their therapist
they are afraid of taking
their own life,

                        that they balanced on a building’s edge,
                        & three officers escort them from the room.

The first cop who ever handcuffed me
                                                                                [was my father]
left me bound
                           till my fingers blued.

          On the days when I can’t remember
          his face,
                               he becomes the scent of
                                                                                vodka & zip ties
                                                 the sound of
                                                                                cuffs & a bottle
                                                 petaling into blades.

                           At the booking office they remove my glasses
                           & the guards blur into a procession
                           of fathers.

          I bring my partner clothes & pads
when the hospital decides to hold them longer,

          shove each shirt that could mark them
as queer back inside the closet & shut it [like a mouth].

                               The word faggot scrawls across
                               the jail guard’s lips like graffiti.

When I visit my partner
          they insist on staying inside

                       the sky above
                       the patio cordoned
                       off  with chicken wire.

I plead my sentence down
in exchange for: my face, my prints, my DNA
                             & ten years probation.

When I see a cop, I fear
                     even my breath

                     & when my therapist asks me
                     if  I’m suicidal
                                                               I lie.

both are a kind
of  surveillance.

Tear gas floods the street,
          sharpens water to a blade
          hidden in the orbit of my eye.

                    & just like this, a squad car
                    remakes my sadness a weapon.

If my partner snaps cuffs
          around my wrists

                                 [& I asked for this]

have they also weaponized
my desire?

A woman in the facility
tells my partner:
                                 I know what you are.

My partner goads her on,
babbles in false
                            tongues & is confined
                                         to their room for safety.

Once, a cop dragged me
into an alley &
                                        beat me like he knew
                                        exactly what I was.

          What does it say if sometimes
                                        when I ask my partner to hit me

          I expect his fist
tightened in their throat, his voice
                                     bruising their tongue?

I am arrested & placed
                                            [in the men’s jail]
in solitary confinement.

           They tell me this is protective
                      custody. That they couldn’t afford
                                 the lawsuit if  I were killed. In this way,
                                            they tell me I am a woman

                      only when I am no longer

The origin of the word prison
is the Latin prehendere — to take.

           It follows, then,
           that to take your life is to prison
           the body beneath dirt.

           suicide is a criminal act].

Balanced on a building’s edge, I imagine
some permutation of  this moment

                                 where to fail at death
                                 would be a breach

                                                                       of my probation.

We both weep for the first time

                                            upon release

when we see the sky.

                                            Pale blue

sliced through

                                            with a single helix

of razor wire & bordered

                                            in sterile white.