Chris Brandt



...........(on being arrested and held for "exercising free speech" in the Supreme Court, January 11, 2008, defense of the right of the Guantanamo detainees to habeas corpus.)

............Be a literalist of the imagination. The concrete is most poetic.
............- Lawrence Ferlinghetti

A slurry of portland, aggregate and water
laid over reinforcing bars and cured, can bear loads
of at least three thousand pounds per square inch.
Thirteen men in this ten-thousand-square-inch cell
make up together one twenty-thousandth
of its minimum load-bearing capacity.
Three-quarter-inch steel bars welded to steel plates
make up the door that slams shut.
An open steel toilet takes one corner,
a narrow steel bench one wall. No food no water.
Concrete and steel are very hard.
Fatigue brings sleep but when we wake
we've no idea how long. No window,
no clock, no time. The lights are never off.

Very well, let us be concrete literalists
of imagination. Let us imagine
the gravitational pull of concrete –
dense mass pulling our bodies into itself,
let us imagine our bones turning into concrete
our backs to steel. Let us imagine
we are each alone, enclosed
by concrete, steel, light. Let us
imagine the light is visible only
sometimes along the bottom edge of a black hood.
Let us imagine our names have been

Chris Brandt is a writer and political activist. Also a translator, carpenter, furniture designer, theatre worker. He teaches poetry at Fordham University. His poems and essays have been published in magazines, journals, and anthologies, including Off the Cuffs: Poetry by and About the Police (Soft Skull, edited by Jackie Sheeler); Lateral (Barcelona); El signo del gorrion (Valladolid); Liqueur 44 (Paris); La Jornada (Mexico); Phati'tude, Appearances; The Unbearables; National Poetry Magazine of the Lower East Side and the anthology Crimes of the Beats. His translations of Cuban fiction have been published in The New Yorker and by Seven Stories Press, and his translations of two volumes of Carmen Valle's poetry by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. Seven Stories published hi s translation of Clara Nieto's Masters of War, a history of U.S. interventions in Latin America. Translations of contemporary Cuban poetry will be included in a University of California Berkeley anthology to be published in 2009.

(author retains copyright)