Last week (16 May 2019), I went to the launch of a new book: Seen & Heard. Edited by Lucy Baldwin & Ben Raikes, the book simply contains 100 poems (and drawings) by parents and children affected by imprisonment.
As always, the direct experience of being in prison, or having a parent in prison, is so much more raw and shocking than any recitation of the statistics.
The purpose of the book is for people to hear how our prison system affects people unmitigated or shaped by any professional analysis.
You won’t be surprised to know that going to the launch was a profoundly moving event.
I’ve reproduced a couple of the poems here and would urge you to buy the book yourself, all the proceeds go to charities and organisations supporting children of prisoners.
The artwork reproduced above from the cover of the book was drawn by Matila Brookes-Jones when she was ten years old.
The first poem was written by Danielle, a woman in prison, who handed it to Lucy Baldwin, asking her to share it to “someone in government who makes the decisions that means we get sent here, make them see the harm it causes.” It was this poem which provided the impetus for the book.
I was taken without warning, no time to prepare me, to prepare you
Wrenched screaming from court, you not knowing, blissfully unaware
You’re staying with friends, taken in, in pity, the outsider
We connect after days of mutual torture, fast words, anger, recrimination, loss
You hate me, I love you, a few short months, I’m sorry, driven by desperation
Every day, I heard your pain, you were adrift, untethered, a boat with no anchor
Drifting further away
The day came and went, no call, no you, where were you, the late-night knock on my door?
You are “missing”, they didn’t want to worry me, they found you
In the woods, you left a note, it was too much, you are sorry, you felt lost
You drifted away
I’m still here, now I’m lost, I’m drifting too, I never want to leave
I don’t want to be in the world outside, not without you
But I will. I owe you… To live my life and yours – and to live it well
No more drifting, anchors, a mooring, a safe crossing
In your honour.
This next poem is by Sophie, aged 13.
My dad has failed and so has been jailed
We are left behind
He was here one minute and gone the next
And nobody understands
It’s like he has died but we have to hide
From what he has done
It’s hard to describe how I still love my dad
Even though he did something bad
Other people don’t get it
And expect me to forget him
But love doesn’t work like that
There is no on/off switch.