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Poetry Magnum Opus

Flower Child [R -]


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The railway station at Vincennes,

when you came rushing down the platform

with that look of joy within your eyes,

dressed all in white, a flush on your cheeks,

blue-eyed, blonde, adorable.

You were so beautiful,

and at that time, so was I.

You ran into my arms, you nearly

knocked me over! We laughed.

I loved you. I loved you dearly,

but we will never see that day again.

Memories of who and what and when

remain sharp and clearcut, sharp as diamonds,

sharp as the sudden thrust of a knife.

They will remain with me for the rest of my life.




I couldn’t expect you to visit me in prison.

They tend to move you around such a lot,

even tentative plans would have fallen through.

You wrote to me more than I wrote to you,

on many a mauve, tear-stained, scented page.

I know you felt betrayed, you couldn’t understand,

and I couldn’t deal with it, darling, I couldn’t explain,

as your trust, still lingering, beat down your rage.

I tried so many many times to make it make sense

but came across stiff or righteous or simply dense,

like some politician, or like some parrot’s refrain.

In the end I just gave up. After that, so did you.




I had one or two other things on my mind at the time,

such as survival. The hard chaws were out to nail me.

I’d been put into Category A which was seriously ungood

since you got banged up in solitary most of the day.

They let you out for meals and a walk, so-called exercise.

The chaws were spitting in the food and giving me elbows.

I needed to get a message out to the Lads, a few names,

to put the fear of God into these lumbering tattoed lunks,

but how to do so? The screws were no fuckin use, in fact,

little to choose between them and the resident population.

When in doubt, use the Laundry. Can’t explain but it works.




No more elbows, even the food tastes better. Good stuff, cool.

Messages have been received. Chaws still not talking to me yet.

Matter of time, soon they’ll be asking me to sort out fuckers outside,

as if we do that kind of thing. They think we’re criminals like them.

The solitary is not good. I tried yoga and reading and even writing.

They collect everything you write to have a glom so you can’t write truly.

I did an essay on the prison system and the Governor called for me.

He was highly distraught and kept shoving files at me across the desk

as if I was sending off articles to the tabloids. Hello, hello, says I,

and now I’ve got a comfy job in the Library. Gets me out of the cell.

Thank Christ! I was going spare. Still can’t seem to write to her. I try.




I am so totally depressed. I’ll be here for the next 20 fuckin years!

The chaws are thawing out, the fuckers, want to play cards and all,

but Jaysus Christ Almighty!! I want to get the fuck outta here!




I got a letter today. She’s getting married.

She was the best thing I ever had.

The metallic sharpness of the pain

feels like jagged glass in my lungs, even though, even

though a part of me knew this was coming. I knew it.


Will I ever feel love again?

Will I ever feel anything?


I had to leave the fuckin library (they don’t read much)

and go hide in the Jax, bawling like an infant.

I haven’t cried since I was about six.

Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror:

Shaven head, sunken eyes, rashes and pimples,

I look older than me father!


What happened to the Golden Boy,

where is the hard dumb beauty of fleeting youth?

Abide with me, young man, abide,

and turn aside all thoughts of suicide,

for that is no answer, no resolution.

God Damn the Irish Revolution!




Nearly five years now in this bleedin’ place, no chance of parole.

I finished the first Open University degree, history or some such,

and started giving lectures to the bored old lags in the Library.

Then the penny dropped! The only thing they care about is the Law,

some twist or bend or review that will get them hell out of here!

I’m a bright young spark (why, then, am I spending my life in prison?)

I got the books and precedents down and started selling legal advice.

Selling is a relative term, you understand, we deal in imaginary money,

but it put a right fuckin burr up the arse of the authorities. The Law.

Oh, the Law! Charles Dickens can tell you. Not at all what you think.

Very slippery thing altogether is the Law of this Bright & Pleasant Land!




Being Irish, I suppose I came at them with somewhat tigerish intent,

pouncing with gleaming jaws on every anomaly and gap in their defences

so that the Governor tried to transfer me. A prison-wide hunger strike

(our British cousins were woefully unaware of pre-Christian tactics)

put a stop to that. I was about to lay down an injunction with the House of Lords

but wiser heads prevailed. The Governor was replaced with some stroppy female

(Labour was still in at the time, pleasing nobody) and the silly smiling cow

went for appeasement among the residents, not your normal upright citizens.

After the riot that followed, she backed off and things went back to normal.

I was the Lad but I needed Indian and Pakistani solicitors to do the business,

stupid gobshites (no racism intended) for whom you nearly had to draw diagrams.




Then, all of a sudden, they came one day and let me out. Just like that.

Tony fuckin Blair had signed some paper up in Norn Iron and I was free.

All done very quickly, I must say, hardly a chance to say good bye to the chaws

(now my dearest and bestest friends) nor a moment to pass on my pending cases.

We got a fair few out, you know, because we were dealing with careless people.

Anyway, they fecked me out of the place, my home if you like for the last six years,

as if they couldn’t wait to see the back of me. Outside, Jayzus … a welcome!

We had all the fuckin lads in sunglasses and black berets waving the Oul Rag,

but what struck me were all the frankly overweight hordes of family groups,

crying and shite, waving like billy-O. Must remember to collect those imaginary expenses.




Now I am a free man again. This is a bit bewildering.

When you come from the Army or prison this is hard to take in.

You want to find something that will put structure in your life.

Line up. Slop out. Count off by numbers on the word of command.

In a panicky way you sort of wait upon orders,

yearning to return.




Civvy clothes, a dollop of cash, a welcome home in Ireland?

Fuck Ireland … No, I don’t mean that. I’m not feeling, sorry,

not feeling super great about all that shite. Maybe … but ?

She’d still be living here in the UK, more than likely.

She’d be on this island somewhere.

How can I find her? What happens if I do find her?

Dear Christ, just look at me! I’m 29 and I look like 40 plus.

What would she think if she saw me?

She wouldn’t even fuckin recognise me!

She’s married, kids maybe, last thing she needs is me …

Go home. Take the boat. Find an Irish girl.


I don’t want an Irish girl.

I want her!

O, for Christ’s sake.


It’s not what you think.

It’s not love; all it means is that you can’t let it go.

So why didn’t you write to her, tell me that, yeah?




I’m sorry to call you at your work number,

but I have an idea you might remember me ….




I’m sorry, the line is bad. It’s me. I’m out of prison now.

I just …




You remember?




Yeah, I know. I got your letter about that. Everything cool? I mean, do you have any kids or you know, haha …




Oh, shit! I am really sorry to hear that! But, you know, doesn’t mean you can’t have another one sometime … huh? What? Really?




Even if the divorce isn’t final, you’re not married anymore. I really really want to see you again. Can we meet again? Please …





May you rise, red ball of the sun,

forever and ever and ever ….


Sweet dreams are made of this:

champagne, cocaine and early Stones.

Just feel it in your bones --

So lovely, so lonely.


Is that you, God, talking to me at last?

I don’t understand your language.


I don't understand much any more.

but stand upon the ocean shore,

watching the waves come in,

watching the waves go out.


I remember the platform at Vincennes,

the white dress, the flush on your cheeks,

and how quickly the happy moments go

and how they are so few.

I know. I knew.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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I commented on this excellent piece on another forum, but thought it needed a little bump here. Great work.


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Kept me up all night. Sometimes I don't really know what I'm doing ... but I can't stop until the morning light comes breaking softly through the windows. Once you start it is hard to finish. I think it is accurate in the middle stanzas rather than excellent.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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I really liked reading this piece. It's a funny coincidence that I found it today.

Just last night I was thinking about trying to write a prison piece. Thank you for sharing it.

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I like how the poem comes full circle at the close linking well that outpouring of ecstasy of the first stanza to the vestiges of this in the final, evoking a sense how tenuous such moments are.


The narrator's story is a roller coaster and a poignant read



Thank you.




Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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The skilful writing draws in and implies a wide range of social and political themes here, but even the hard-edged texture of your narrative cannot diguise a most interesting and human story.Excellent. Ben

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