Lessons on Confinement

by Quentin Felton

Lesson One, or, “An Exploration of the Many Doors You Dream of Using
to Leave Your House, Before Realizing The House You Speak of is a
Body Planted Six-Feet From The Nearest Escape,” not to be confused with

Lesson Two, “For Though Your House is a Body That May Have Been
Mistaken for a Home, Said Body Could Never Exist Past the Living Room
of the Home You’d Mistaken for a Body, The Only Organ Six-Feet Apart
From All The Others,” or, is it really

Lesson Three, the lesions you swallow while drowning in muddied
digression, emerging eventually from the mouth of an oyster, holding a
guarded pearl—the fourth lesson—palmed, circled, & slick, shinier child
of the first two, conglomerate of that trinity gently creeping behind

Lesson Four, for the many doors you dream of using to leave your
house—the house that may be a body mistaken for a home, but could
never exist past the living room of the home you’ve mistaken for a
body—are, in fact, the rusty bars of a private, corporal prison, its inmates
immune-deficient in ways the state refuses to account for, their health
unacknowledged, their labor unpaid, their fingers blistered by the plastic
pumps of hand sanitizer they aren’t allowed to use. You’re told to name

Lesson Five, a liability, embarrassments of a society that profits off their
collective loss of personhood, gently propped on the pedestal of America’s
longstanding history of exploiting black bodies for bone—yet another
crime hardly excused—always waiting for the bubble to burst beside the
seams of

Lesson Six, for in times of national crisis, America’s potluck patriotism
starts bleeding with the red, white, & blues of state-sanctioned brutality, as
evidence of the implicit socio-economic hierarchies embedded within the
healthcare system, leaping from notes on poverty, to notes on race, to
notes on privilege, to notes on

Lesson Seven, frequently penned as the methods through which you &
your friends pass the time—equally endless, pooling, & unsure—the lot of
you mapping the distance between one’s limbs & another bed’s comfort
by dividing the rising number of confirmed cases from the number of
ventilators no longer present, as in,

Lesson Eight, 160,000 industrial breaths ÷ 1,036,652 unmarked footsteps
= (1) parades dwindled to decimal along Myrtle Avenue, (2) birds
chirping auditory confetti above abandoned streetcars from morning to
night, & (3) blood curdling beside the exits of your favorite bars &
restaurants, crowds birthing the irreversible products of

Lesson Nine, the pandemic, also known as the plague, also known as
60,475 & counting, the counting being the mother & the child, the sticks
& stones broken on a porch now circling the orphaned babes of a
neighborhood cat, whose jet-black was struck by a four-wheeler during a
midnight paper towel delivery to a nearby church, its tail twisted in the
walkway connecting Hall to Willoughby, then Willoughby to casket, the
funeral a murder of meows, asphalt, &

Lesson Ten, omen, most of which you spew while asking your mother if
lessons could ever double as smoke signals, surveying the odds of crossing
the corpse of a cat on your way to leaving a grandmother’s groceries
outside her apartment door, sending silent waves from the elevator, having
forgotten the way family used to taste before FaceTime made an example
of mirrored blood, i.e.,

Lesson Eleven, kinship—both real & fictive roots growing sideways
against the parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, siblings,
partners, first cousins, second cousins, third cousins, best friends, hook-
ups, make-outs, fourth, fifth, & sixth dates all whisked to dust, identity not
only self-made, but largely informed by those no longer around, causing
you to construct the very knees you’re brought to from wrinkled drafts
scattered across a bedroom floor, wondering how long they’re meant to
hold you, unlike

Lesson Twelve, whose slithering god-wink throws you to the wolves,
wraps you in fire, then thinks you an extinguisher, tasked with putting out
the flames your ancestors had already conquered centuries before, their
spells, sugars, & gasoline slathered on the edge of a bookmark after all the
household matches have disappeared, carrying this communion to a wick’s
stretched tongue before dropping its orange on a rug scorched near

Lesson Thirteen, the guttural realization that poems can be neither sparks
nor flames, nor expressed as extinguishers, nor lathered as hand soap, nor
balled as toilet paper, nor fastened as diapers, nor gulped as medication,
nor creaked as the house mistaken for a body mistaken for

Lesson Fourteen, the final lesson recorded, purely, for luck’s sake.

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