Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.

— Virginia Woolf

Ismail in the Laundry

Gretchen Primack

Eastern Correctional


There is a musk that won’t boil off

in bleach. A white


yellow as an old eye.

There is a sound like a train


juddering under the river,

pushing through with its forehead,


pushing through my forehead.

And I fold.


Sysiphus knows this room

and the mess line down


the hall and the line behind

the swinging kitchen door.


He knows these net bags

full of green. The skin of us,


a green not found in nature,

our DINs above the pocket:


the number on our green skins

sealed in cinderblock.


No one wants what is

state issue. Most is state issue.


And I fold. And push the canvas

on its tired black wheels.


What you can wear non-state:

Solid red. Solid yellow. Purple. No


blue, no orange. No patterns.

No black.



Also by Gretchen Primack: Manuel (South Hall)

GRETCHEN PRIMACK’s poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, FIELD, Antioch Review, Ploughshares, Best New Poets, Poet Lore, Hanging Loose, Spoon River Poetry Review, and other journals, and she has penned a chapbook and two full-length collections (Kind, Post Traumatic Press 2013; and Doris’s Red Spaces, Mayapple Press 2014).


The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.

—Cervantes, Don Quixote

© 2016 The Indianola Review