Selections: Dress Code for the Women’s Prison


By Ann Bracken

They won’t let you in. My friend insists.
The assistant warden makes up her own rules.
Don’t think you can go bra-less either.
Wear a sports bra.

No jeans.
No leggings.
No sheer blouses.
No halters.
No mini-skirts.
No open-toed shoes.

The list by the door must have had 20 prohibitions,
most make sense. My friend adds one more:

No underwire bras.

“That’s the only kind I wear,” I tell her.
”Do I need to buy a new bra to volunteer in the women’s prison?”
”I wear underwires in the men’s prison all the time—
The alarm never goes off.”

I imagine the scenario. I arrive as a new volunteer.
in a place where a pen can be turned into a weapon.
Someone deduces that I’m wearing an underwire bra.
Then what? How does an imprisoned woman
corner me so that the guards don’t notice?

How does she split open the fabric and remove
the underwire? Does she risk taking both?
Or maybe we slip into an unmonitored toilet stall,
switch bras, and she wears
the hidden weapons back onto her tier.

Ann Bracken is an activist with a pen. She has started over more times than she can count and believes that she possesses a strong gene for reinvention driving her desire for change. Ann has changed her job and her mind, but never wavers from her commitment to family, friends, writing, and social justice. She’s authored two poetry collections—The Altar of Innocence and No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom. Ann currently serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, a co-host for the reading series Wilde Readings, and runs poetry and writing workshops in libraries, community centers, and prisons. Her poetry and interviews have been published in numerous anthologies and journals.