When they take her from the street
she shouts her full name so someone might
record her disappearance.
They shut her up.
Her articles are measured
and weighed. For months
they guard her, abbreviate her verbs.
They keep her in the imperative.
She is strip-searched, shocked, revived.
Sprayed down with rhetoric.
They push their words between
the bars of her cell.
When she refuses they introduce
words into her clothing.
They remove the eyelets from her shoes,
replace them with their nouns.
They tie her off with phrases.
Shear syllables from her hair
and send the clippings to her family.
They manacle her with clauses.
One folds and inserts his words
under her nails in weekly sessions.
If she escapes into the past perfect
they bring her back with cold water.
When she whispers to herself
they turn the microphones up
and analyze the output.
They open a vein to supplement
They take turns riffling her pages,
smoke while they wait
to funnel words inside her. They crack her
spine with their conjugations.
Within her a letter unfolds
its papery limbs, its ink blot eyes enlarging.
She becomes a skilled translator,
will resignify the language of violence
ensuring her child not recognize the jailers
and speak only a mother tongue.
Elee Kraljii Gardiner directs Thursdays Writing Collective and is coeditor with John Asfour of V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012).