Sunday, September 18, 2016

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The Visit

From Prison UK: An Insider's View, a poem by Patrick C. Notchtree.

The latest in a series of guest posts on this blog is this poem written by Patrick C. Notchtree. Patrick is the author of a ‘fictional biography’ - a trilogy now published as The Clouds Still Hang (2012) - as well as Apostrophe Catastrophe And Other Grammatical Grumbles (2015).
Patrick C. Notchtree
The Clouds Still Hang is described as a ‘sometimes terrifying life story... of love and loyalty, betrothal and betrayal, triumph and tragedy.’ Writing of his books, he observes that ‘Telling my story, good and bad, warts and all, was the main aim.’

Prior to publication, one literary agent told him that his trilogy was ‘too hot to handle.’ Owing to its content, it is unsuitable for those under 18 years of age.

Patrick now lives in the north of England with his wife, and close to his son and other family members. He is a regular visitor to prisons and the observations and raw emotions he expresses in the poem below will doubtless be all too familiar to anyone who has visited a loved one or a friend in a custodial environment.

Patrick is also a critical commentator on prison issues and the urgent need for reform. He can be followed on Twitter: @pcnotchtree.


The Visit

I drive alone, glee mixed with fear
Along the now familiar way
I foresee your smile, your joy at seeing me
I fear your gloom, your basic misery.
What crisis has hit you?
What illness attacked you,
left by an uncaring system?
As I drive, my mind is full;
The sight of your face,
The sound of your voice,
Perhaps all too briefly, the touch of you.
And I know I will miss
The scent of you,
The taste of you.

The buildings squat low among the fields
As though the huge site tries to conceal,
The depravity of its existence.
As I get near, I sound the horn
Our special code, in case you can hear
To lift your mood, your love is now near
My gaze tries to penetrate
The wall that incarcerates.
In the car park I pause, I am still free,
Empty my pockets, just coins, ID and a key.
Soon I know I will have
The sight of your face,
The sound of your voice,
Perhaps all too briefly, the touch of you.
And I know I will miss
The scent of you,
The taste of you.

The electric doors take me in too,
But they bring me closer to you.
Search, rub down and then I’m through.
Look down the room, are you there yet?
Then to the shop hatch, I know what to get;
Lots of chocolate and very sweet tea.
(That’s for you, much less for me.)
Along the big room I carry the tray
To where you are sitting, it’s now our day.
And now so briefly at last I have
The sight of your face,
The sound of your voice,
And all too briefly, the touch of you.
And yes I do miss
The scent of you,
The taste of you.

You smile your smile, I sense your love
But kept under wraps in this public space.
Other cons, and screws watch this place
Not to mention the lenses above.
We talk, catch up, where is the letter?
Written last week, still not arrived.
Despite complaints, that gets no better.
But now for a time, so long deprived,
At last I have
The sight of your face,
The sound of your voice,
And all too briefly, the touch of you.
I really do miss
The scent of you,
The taste of you.

My eyes take you in, the pallor of your skin
Fed on so little, under two pounds a day.
Not surprising you look so thin.
The chocolate bar is pushed away.
It’s now too rich, too much to eat,
On the edge of malnutrition,
More and more less of a treat,
I’m scared for your condition.
But just for now I have
The sight of your face,
The sound of your voice,
And all too briefly, the touch of you.
I long to have too
The scent of you,
The taste of you.

My eyes take you in, your hair to your toes
You are still there, despite being clad
In the blue prison clothes.
This respite from your pad.
We ask how can I help you,
Trapped in the prison of your past,
So you never see another screw,
And make you truly free at last?
But just for now I have
The sight of your face,
The sound of your voice,
And all too briefly, the touch of you.
And I so want as well
The scent of you,
The taste of you.

You live in the moment, I know
Your defence for the torment inside,
On release, where can you go?
But we manage a laugh, a joke beside.
Then comes the call, “Finish off now.”
The pain of knowing that now we must part.
I’ll keep on coming, I made that vow,
I’ll hold these memories deep in my heart.
But now I must leave
The sight of your face,
The sound of your voice,
And all too briefly, the touch of you.
And I so want as well
The scent of you,
The taste of you.

I walk to the door, go through the check,
I turn and look back, to see if you wave.
You’re at the far end, I’m craning my neck
You get that last glimpse; you’re being so brave.
Then I am out, into the sunlight,
Empty my locker and walk back to our car,
I sit for a moment, my tears out of sight.
Then the drive back, so near and so far.
As I drive, my mind is full;
The sight of your face,
The sound of your voice,
And all too briefly, the touch of you.
And I know I will miss
The scent of you,
The taste of you.

© 2015 Patrick C Notchtree


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