By CRALAN KELDER
During this past visit to California, I visited a friend who has been incarcerated since 1985 – for 25 years. In prison, he isn’t allowed to physically handle money, so when we take a break from walking laps around the visiting room and get in line by the vending machines to treat ourselves to hot drinks, he has to stay behind a red line with OUT OF BOUNDS painted in large all cap red letters. I pull out my ziploc bag of quarters and dollar bills and am at a bit of loss for ordering our hot drinks because a code is required on the keypad, so my friend leans forward with a wry grin, saying “*#JE-as in Echo-3” in rapid succession. I insert the coins and punch in these digits-which magically produce him a hazelnut coffee with whipped milk and extra sweetener. He laughs with pleasure and says, “I feel like I am the leader of a very small country.”
Cralan Kelder is the author of Give Some Word. His work has recently appeared in Zen Monster, Poetry Salzberg Review, and VLAK, among other publications. Kelder currently edits the literary magazines Full Metal Poem and Retort. He lives in Amsterdam with the evolutionary biologist Toby Kiers and their children.