Shift Change by Diane Kendig

Always early, I sit in my car and listen to NPR; tonight,
a study claiming that D.A.R.E. has never worked
and principals don’t care: what they want
are cops in the hall.

At 4:34, I watch the shift at the sally port.
They move out alone, in pairs, and one boisterous group
surrounds the smiling White Shirt
who received flowers at work today.

A few pause at the new bricks
cemented into a semi-circle, and one by one
they peer down at a plaque embedded there.
A man my age lingers last, reads,

and runs his hand over his face. I’ve seen him
all week on the evening news.
He was to meet her for dinner and waited,
then went back in and found the body.

He keeps calling on the state to follow
its own contingencies, like enough two-way radios,
at least, fix the broken ones in storage.
A prison spokeswoman says the situation will be studied.

He gets into his car. I walk to the wall and read:
“For those who gave their lives in the line of duty here,”
and her name engraved on a new nameplate,
surrounded by nine new blank nameplates.

They are the state’s contingency plan.



Diane Kendigpoet, writer, translator and teacher for 40 years– has authored four poetry collections, most recently The Places We Find Ourselves. A recipient of two Ohio Arts Council Fellowships, she has poems recently in J Journal, Wordgathering, and Ekphrasis, among others. She’s on the web: and