Poetry in the Ramsey County Detention Center

(Photo: Marc Soller/Creative Commons)

(Photo: Marc Soller/Creative Commons)

We come from separate compartments,
they from carrels,
I, from my usual routine,
form a circle, except
for the young man next to me
who turns away.

I read poems,
they read, taking turns, shy,
then surprised at the voice
that emerges, a hoop
of language, a circle of light
compared to the concrete blocks
of their confinement,
every pencil numbered, every
fork counted.

We sit in freedom, the door
of language open, breath warms
the circle that begins
where it ends
and goes round again.
We sit in the circle and read and breathe.


Norita Dittberner-Jax grew up in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul and taught English in its schools. She loves walking around Saint Paul, especially Lake Como. She has three collections of poetry—What They Always Were, Longing for Home, and The Watch.

Leave a Reply