Extract - Estados Unidos Mexico

Natalie Diaz

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Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration

EXTRACT is an online section where we share some of the texts published by Temblores Publicaciones, Terremoto’s publishing house. We present “Under Correction I” by Natalie Diaz, the first of her three poems for Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration.

Under Correction I

by Natalie Díaz

When I visit the correctional facility
to see my sister, I do not get to see her.
I watch a television of her. 

My sister is scripted as a new character.
Together we’re the program’s live and captive audience—
only my sister is captured. 

My real, untelevised sister is somewhere on the other side
of the screen. I am somewhere on this side
of the screen. We are figures across a distance, 

over a net of cyclone fence and static—we are playing
tennis on a state-sponsored cable channel, with no ball
or racket, no wealthy white people in the stands, 

and no one will call out to us: Love-Love.

My sister is broadcast to me
from a satellite transmitter in the sky,
but she isn’t as far as they want her to seem. 

My sister is approximately 400 feet away, locked up
in this box within a box—a settler colonial magic show.
Not sawed in half, but close: a Hans Moretti sword box.

Where is the illusion—is it us? Or is it freedom?
Now you see your sister, now you don’t.
Whose sister can climb out of this box uninjured?

My sister does because we know this complex.
We were born with it and our Certificates of Indian Blood.
My sister and I have an industrial complex—

and today, maybe every day, we’re in the same complex
and complicated. From behind the black bubble camera
dripping like an ink blot from the ceiling corner, 

a guard or three keep violent vigil, watch me watch
a symbol of my sister. From that distance,
my sister and I are a performance of people, 

but not real people. One of us is acting the part
of the good guy. One of us is acting the part
of the bad guy. We are performing 

both the stage and the audience, the ushers,
the trapdoor, the gaffs, the curtains falling.
We are performing the architecture 

of a concrete block and a Nation. My sister needs
to be a stone, and I am learning to be a mountain,
though we are both quarried.

Inside this inside we are each less-than
an outside. Inside we are un-bodies, fantasmas
of an unlivable life that isn’t the life we live.

They took my sister’s glasses from her,
because our country has a vision, and it corrects us
until we see it. Read the line: N, D, N, and U, S, A.

My sister and I have been corrected to a safe distance,
to watch a television from. We are in the books,
edited and revised. My sister and I are a sentence,

Find this full text in the printed version of Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration here.


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