From Prison Industrial Complex Explodes. Published by Talon Books in 2017.

Mountain Prison
Agassiz, B.C.
Re: Your Deportation

Dear Donny,
At long last I have now heard from Ottawa regarding the immigration department’s position regarding the timing of your deportation. Their position, as confirmed by the head of the enforcement branch in Ottawa, is that they will not seek to enforce the deportation order until you have completed your sentence of imprisonment including any period of mandatory supervision. What you will then be able to do is that, after you have been out on the street for some while and have established yourself, you can then re-apply to the immigration appeal board for a review of your case and try to persuade them to stay your deportation again in light of your proven rehabilitation.
Yours sincerely,
Michael Jackson
University of British Columbia
Faculty of Law

my dad is inside when I am born. after I come out we live in Vancouver a bit then move to Abbotsford to be closer to the prison. we visit almost every weekend, both days, 8 hours a day. 832 hours in a year times 2. almost 70 days by the time I’m 2.

he gets out when I’m 2, but goes back because later I remember my mom saying I have a surprise for you and I think it’s a record player. but it’s my dad behind the door, home from jail. so he went somewhere between 2 and 7, somewhere with dinosaurs and a bumpy gravel road.

we are on the highway in Vancouver, starting our drive back home to Medicine Hat. the car stops suddenly and then there are two really angry men yelling, “open the fucking door!” they smash open the window and they’re both grabbing my dad, one by the hair, the other by the throat. it looks like they wanna strangle him. my dad is kicking, he’s fighting. but it doesn’t work, they take him and he’s gone.

there is a good time, we move to a bigger house. but something happens and my dad is gone again. but then he gets out and he is straightened out and he is working the gas fields and there is money and our allowance goes up and my little brother gets G.I. Joe everything for Christmas and my mom is happy.

we spend summer vacation at the women’s shelter.

we run into an old friend visiting her new old man in Drumheller prison and when we go out for dinner after she makes me blush with her pronouncement that I’m “getting titties.”

I’m 13 the next time my mom pulls the surprise-behind-the-door trick and I feel sick.

at 15 and 16, I use my mother’s visits to my father, the ones she makes me and my brother go on less and less frequently, as opportunities to run away from home, succeeding on the third try.

I’m 19 the last time I visit my dad inside, the last time he’s inside, a prison 40 km away from the prison he escaped from just before he met my mother.

a tall tall fence
a jacket to throw over the barbwire
a haystack in a farmer’s field over-
night a train ride a train track
a store selling used goods
a pregnant 19-year-old white girl and
new charges
a strawberry-picking pass
a rumour about a prison labour
a train ride a train track
a store selling used goods
a pregnant 19-year-old white girl and
new charges

No items found.


Mercedes Eng teaches and writes in Vancouver, on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories. She is the author of Prison Industrial Complex Explodes (Talonbooks), winner of the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and Mercenary English (Talonbooks). Her writing has appeared in Jacket2, The Downtown East, The Volcano, in public art projects and in the collectively produced chapbooks, r/ally (No One Is Illegal), Surveillance, and M’aidez (Press Release). Eng is working on a women’s prison reader and a detective novel set in her grandfather’s Chinatown supper club, circa 1948.



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