Poetry ~ Andrew C. Brown
Seeking a solace
When pennies drop
how long until pounds
of flesh are weighed. Quid
pro quo only fair as loved ones
die, revenge lightens dark rainbows.
Is this the world that we wish for?
When war occurred, I wasn’t on guard.
Detained through Logan’s Run decision.
Concentration culled in camps alongside
fellow-pensioners. New-age prisoners we
had such fun, coughing up memories, daily
gambling on death, playing roulette waiting
for wheel to stop, winners declared, losing
chips discarded. There is no more bingo
sessions, no more shouts of House, the
pensioners chorus silenced as bricks
of society demolished, dismantled.
Self-isolation is not prison
Self-isolation saves life. Lost freedom is Crown Court to waiting van. Handcuffed until secure in cubicle. (Do not know where I will be taken) Claustrophobic hot space suffocates any positive thought in mind. Other prisoners interact, dispense accusations, debate lenient sentences declare treachery. Knowing voices discuss tea options. I am the stranger. Three-year reality. Virgin stomach knots anticipation with fear. Think of those left behind whom I loved, betrayed. I told them two years. Van stops.
Voices questions answers paperwork requested checked accepted. Gates open engine starts then silence. Released to laughing uniforms. Reception. Knew I had appointment booked. It was overdue. Must accept prescription dispensed. No wellbeing here.
Plenty of pillars to hide behind or to be intimidated.
Television plays familiar monotonous teatime fare.
Conversations, sentences compared. Lenient courts.
Curse my fate. Check other men. Feel I am scanned.
Jeff Banks suit barcoded. Points me out as different.
But I am not, I am like them all in this denial room.
No stranger to addictive lifestyle voraciously dined
on an unending, forever-famished gambling menu.
Spot him immediately, 5’4”, big stomach, bushy beard, smartly dressed, paedophile surely. Thankful. He could be picked on before me hope do not share cell with him.
Men called, men escorted, men processed, my turn, taken, with file and questions. Suit swopped. Non-entity clothing. I am given new identity, on database with my own assigned
letters and numerals. Allowed telephone call, speak to crying daughter, explain where I am, try to be positive, say appealing against sentence, ask if she ok, tell her I love her. Don’t hear her reply. Allotted time expired. Returned to system. Trusted inmates serve anonymous food. Escorted to welcome of the wing, policed by Samaritan convicts. Ushered to new home, recognise newcomer on top bunk. Big stomach, bushy beard. Same clothes same letters,
smaller number means he is always ahead of me in prison system.
Hope he does not piss on me in snoring sleep. Reinforces headful of demons.
I fire bullets executing misery despair destruction. Think of those I love. Try
sleep. Fully awake on bottom bunk of locked prison cell. Tormented. Scared.
My ambition is just for today
So much to complete. Finish
given time. Recompense to
pay. Invoice outstanding.
Unexpected siren calls
of life lived.
Epidemic of eternal, everlasting love
You didn’t hear me at first, thought you were awake.
Light glimpsed a chance to seep into the darkened bedroom.
I watched you, asked again if you were awake.
When you replied a shaky, stuttering
yes, I asked could you turn
over please? I had
put a stop to my motions.
As quick as I had felt the hardened
possibility soft reality prevented more progress.
You asked if I wanted to do my reading. I collected the
small blue book from the shelf, brought it in amongst us, decided
to share its daily truth, as usual, at half-eight. Our normal
love-you exchange. I left warm bed. Dressed.
Pyjama-clad. Collected charger.
Descended to kitchen.
placed everything as it should be.
Replenished fridge water dispenser, filled
my normal glass. Topped kettle, prepared coffee,
took one of the now-ripe Aldi green grapes bought the
other day. (The red grapes were already ripe). Bargain carton
for only a pound. Poured steaming liquid in red Nescafe
mug. Glass, mug taken to lounge. Checked phone,
placed it on charge. Opened laptop. Typed
password. Completed random hard
-level Spider Solitaire. Scored
point less than my highest
score. Felt another
are both vulnerable.
Windows Media Player.
Headphones. Nearly half-eight.
Final track heard before ascending to
the bedroom. 1976 Album. Drought year.
Never-forgotten assault. Fermented addiction.
Sang each word perfectly. Pretended to play piano,
Day at the Races track two - you take my breath away.
Andrew C Brown’s words draw on experiences as an addict, a prisoner and living on one of the most deprived estates in the UK. He achieved a community regeneration award for his work with offenders and their families in South Bristol as well as winning a Highly Commended Award in the national Koestler competition. His work has been published on three continents including in publications such as The International Times; Magma; Ink, Sweat and Tears; Sentinel Literary Quarterly; Lakeview International Journal; The Stray Branch.