Monthly Archives: January 2016

Jail Poems – Lindsey Cooper

These poems are all in Hidden Voices, a magazine put out by East London Women Against Prison, November 1981.

Jail Poems (1)

winter smell
of rain in courtyard and
dusty places between walls
on sparse weeds in
cracked cement
a year later
i’m suprised to find
it smells the same on the outside

Jail Poems (2)

how did i get here
white tiles
concrete cold floor
dim bulb
chill
smell
stale cleanness of
disinfectant
pan in corner
how did i get here
succession of big men
led me
firmly by the elbow
through corridors
big men
in shapeless shit brown clothes
questioned me across
desks in flourescent rooms
disinterested
sympathetic
and bored
drove me here and there
talking of t.v.
their wives
promotion
then brought me here
i think
or some other place
the same
how did i get here
how did i get here
in the half sleep of
shock
wrap my coat
tight
tomorrow they’ll take it away

Jail Poems (3)

smell of bean stew
trudge
smell of feet
into the chapel
be thankful unto
the lord all ye lands
200 blasts of halitosis
trudge
in big
odd broken
boots
trudge around the yard
soft rain
trudge
round the galleries
loose boot nails
clinking on slate
muttering
shuffeling
laughing at farts
in cathedral gloom
a polished mirror in
grey uniform in
a grey place
doing grey time
feeling bad
but not too
bad
grasping
at each small event

an x-ray
an egg
a visit
a bellyache
makes me feel human

Jail Poems (4)

endless afternoons
another day
and no letter

window
too high to see
sound of rain

saying bless me
alone
with a cold

between
buildings
a little sun

one day
may i see
the other face of that tree

caring alike
for all men
mess hall sparrow

Prisoner

Anger On The Road

In 1979 Bookmarks, the SWP’s publishing arm put out the account of the 1978 Right To Work march by a teacher who’d been on it. Despite it being put out by the SWP it’s a good booklet and an interesting read as it’s by someone with their boots on the ground rather than lofty theorising.
The booklet is called Anger On The Road – or, How the TUC learned to hate the Right to Work march and is by Jimmy Reilly.
It tells how he travelled down from the north to Bethnal Green and then marched to Brighton for the TUC conference, calling on the trade unions to save jobs, stop cuts and fight unemployment.
The booklet quotes from Louis MacNeice, Seamus Heaney and Sham 69.
Included is the following insight into how music can bring people together.

001

This section is from when the march had stopped for the night the day before going into Brighton.

Tom Robinson had set himself up under the sprawling branches of the oak tree with an acoustic guitar and a couple of amplifiers. The setting was perfection itself.
The performance was better. I can quite honestly say that the following two hours were totally memorable.I will carry those two hours to my grave. And I am not alone.
He sang ‘I Shall be Released’: a song we were to hear later in the week. He sang ‘Glad to be Gay’ which invoked thoughts of Sad to be Straight. We were all Glad to be Gay. ‘Martin’ followed, and then he sang Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and invited John Deason up beside him to give a performance of the Pointer Sisters.
Basically what Tom Robinson accomplished was this. He took a group of some six hundred people and welded them together for the remainder of the march. Certainly there had been solidarity there before, but after the concert there were no barriers between us. It didnt matter whether you were a sixteen-year-old unemployed kid or a thirty-seven-year-old schoolteacher. The common ground was always there: what Tom Robinson did was to produce a common denominator.
This is not to say that the whole concert was a vehicle for Tom Robinson’s ego. Far from it. He surrendered the stage to one of the marchers who played a couple of his own excellent songs and then recited his poem ‘Chairman of the Bench’. Mick O’Farrell’s intervention was extremely important and for that I offer him my heartfelt thanks.