From the 1969 Corgi anthology Doves For the 70s. Written by the imprisoned Pat Arrowsmith, she was an active socialist and peace campaigner.
(Holloway, Spring 1969)
Here at least, I thought,
I shall find freedom.
Here in prison all encumbrances
will be removed.
I shall be left without the burden of
possessions, responsibilities, relationships.
Alone and naked I shall feel
a fresh wind over my entire uncluttered body
blow each pore clear,
cooling and cleaning every crevice.
At last I shall know the relief of
simply obeying orders,
caring for no-one,
being uncared for.
I shall sit content for hours on end
in a bare cell,
glad to be cut off from
things, people, commitments and the
confusing world outside.
But I was wrong.
There is no freedom here –
prison is the world in microcosm.
In my locker is a cache of valuables:
needle, cotton, nail-file, pencil.
My wages buy me fruit and biscuits which
I hoard and hide,
fearing they’ll get stolen.
Meticuously I arrange the flowers that
outside friends send in:
carefully decorate my cell with cut out pictures;
get flustered if I lose my mug or bucket.
I am no hermit from the outside world,
but strain through busy days to read
each item in the newspapers.
International problems follow me inside;
a prisoner is picked on – she is coloured.
Every evening I am forced to choose
between a range of recreations:
I may read or dance or take a bath,
go to class, play darts or
watch the news.
I am seldom on my own:
a geometry of love, hate, friendship
forms about me.
Someone calls my name,
enters my cell,
asks a favour,
makes some claim upon me.
And I marvel
as I lie alone at night
that this world is as complex as the other;
that even here in jail I am not free to
lose my freedom.