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by Mikaela Kesinger 

Tap. Tap. Tap.


    Not a moment to spare between the judge’s

    lips, and the paper that prints out death

    in black and white.


Tap, tap, tap—

    Louder this time—the second hand

    of a clock on the wall behind me

    is in a footrace with

    her fingers.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

    My body, stiff as the pews that hold

    gods—who wield their pen and notebooks.

    My mind, drifting to anything that will

    erase the image of my stepfather’s body, 

    lifeless on that table.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

    I’ve never hated Microsoft PowerPoint

    more in my life.


And taps.

    I hate looking at mother from this angle—

    at least nine rows and life sentence apart.

    My heart falls from my chest,

    everyone pausing as it rolls

    slowly down to the bench,

    leaving a trail of blood.

    The judge says


Then more taps.

Mikaela Kesinger graduated from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington with a degree of distinction—magna cum laude—in both creative writing and sociology. They have a passion for writing unique forms of creative nonfiction to share their personal experience with our broken criminal justice system. As a published nonfiction writer and poet, they use every weapon in the writer’s arsenal to raise awareness for the women behind bars—like their mother. With a focus on real-world problems that incarcerated individuals and their families face, their poems present a raw and honest viewpoint on our criminal justice system in the United States.

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