The Fargo Jail


The Fargo Jail


We move like ghosts from the tiny waiting room

through a kind of fissure in the wall

to a narrow string of visiting stalls.

Each has a viewing window and a narrow ledge

just high enough to make leaning in uncomfortable.

The telephone’s short cord seems to wrestle and

pull me to the side of the booth, but when I sit down

on my side of the murky glass, I cradle the phone

like an infant in the crook of my elbow and smile.

I can’t see my reflection in the pane, except that

the gold rims of my glasses are reflected exactly

around your eyes and I seem to be looking at both of us.

I ask if you remember how you used to grab my glasses,

go parading around the house, and make faces at yourself

in the bathroom mirror. You laugh, and for a while

we manage to forego what would have kept us silent.

After twenty minutes, we file out. We pass a one-way

bullet-proof glass that reaches from counter to ceiling

and buries our images deep within it. I try hard to make out

my own, hoping to discern a vital truth before I leave.

Allen Helmstetter

Allen Helmstetter lives in rural Minnesota. He loves the rivers, woods, and fields there, and after hiking the trails is often inspired to write about the relationship between nature and the human condition. He has been published in North Coast Review and forthcoming in Willawaw Journal. 


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