Archive for the ‘Prose’ Category

The Irish
March 16, 2013

I liken the people to the place they were born and raised.
Geography is all.

Gorgeous Ireland. Close enough to the north pole, violent swerving winds castigate its landscape and its people, a very old piece of land without mountains to provide natural sources of shelter; the Irish are completely exposed to the elements, the cold rain, the relentless wind, the dark days whose light palette will vary between grayish blue and charcoal grey. A streak of light does break through here and there, mostly in the distance to warm somebody else’ backyard.

The Irish are depressed and if they aren’t, they should be.
So they dance and they sing their blues away.
The circles of nature inspire their ancient art
Which they weave into tight threads
Tight relationships
Tight loyalty
Tight tribes.

The bareness across their landscape leaves them vulnerable to the whims of the gods above cos they have no place to hide…
Uncertain of what next day will bring ..
The need to fight for survival in this harsh environment grinds their senses ..
To ask the right questions is important to stay alive ..
Spirituality takes hold.

Given this scenario their best social security plan is to have children.
Done over the centuries this is their secret of life.
Pretty babies. Many babies.
For most the only option is to get out.
So, the only way to sustain this high turnover is to have even more children.
I was surprised to spot families of 6, not 4, as is common in most western countries.
The Irish believe that if they want to survive they must multiply!

The passionate agony of its people reflect the island’ temperamental weather, its bare rolling hills and cliffs and its small size. Creative, loving, possessive, subtle, affectionate, cold, spiritual, proud, wicked, expressive, cruel, tender, ruthless, humane, atrocious, loyal and tribal.

They are not English at all, at all…

Random New Yorker – 16/03/2013

Compassion in Action
March 9, 2013

The other morning, I woke up to a sharp winter sun rising over the Mediterranean. Behind me, the White Mountains showed they are worthy of their name. Capped with fresh snow, they hurled a cold northerly wind at us, cutting through the bluest of skies to make this a perfect morning for a brisk walk by the sea.


I wrapped up well and walked the 200 yards or so down the steep, winding little path in the cliff edge, onto the beach. The freshness of the morning was invigorating. I decided to walk towards the harbour where sleepy little fishing vessels were quietly huddled together under the protection of the quay wall, disturbed only by the shrieks of the seagulls cursing at me for waking them too early.


When I walked past the taberna, now closed for winter, an unfamiliar shape caught my eye. It was lodged under the wooden platform that extended out from the taberna onto the beach. Like the taberna, the platform has seen better days.
At first I thought the shape was a washed up buoy or maybe a bag of rubbish hidden there by somebody to lazy to walk to the next rubbish collection point.


And then the shape moved. Only ever so slightly, but nevertheless, it moved. With the movement, it also produced a little grunt. As I watched, the shape slowly unfurled into a dark skinned, sinewy thin woman. At a guess, Asian-African, possibly Somali.
She looked at me once, in silence, and simply carried on doing what she was doing. There wasn’t the slightest hint of her even noticing my presence. To my amazement she produced a small child from underneath the blanket, which she then turned into a sling. In the protective cocoon of the sling, she put the child on her breast and walked away, without a sound.


Poor woman with child


The sum total of this woman was there, in front of me, moving further away in slow motion. The clothes she wore, her blanket and her child. That was all. Was that really everything?
What happened? Why? How? Who is she? Where? What are her hopes and dreams? For herself, for her child..?
Hundreds of questions raced through my mind, and the single answer kept coming back in reply; “I don’t know”.
I’ll never forget her haunting eyes. At the same time questioning, accusing, wondering. But not pleading. She had gone beyond pleading, beyond asking. Her silent loneliness was her last defence against a world that didn’t want her.
I felt totally inadequate, and ashamed. I could have reached out, offered help, maybe some food, or my warm jacket, or… But I didn’t. The whole scene was just so surreal, a freeze-frame moment that seemed to last for eons.


Today I went to Chania to get some supplies, and while crossing the road to go into the market for fresh fish and goats cheese, I saw her again.
The same woman, wearing the same clothes, her child sleeping on her shoulder. Today, her blanket offered itself as a pillow to the child. She stood at the entrance to the market building, and watched, in silence. Her dark skin even darker, backlit by the sharp low winter sun.
She did not hold out her hand, she didn’t ask for anything. She stood in silent witness to an uncaring world, so caught up in itself it neither notices nor cares about those it leaves behind.
Then, a little girl, she could have been 8, maybe 10, came out from the market building. She skipped up to the woman and put a loaf of bread into her hand. Then the girl disappeared back into the market again, dancing, smiling, brimming with life.


Not a word was spoken between them. Compassion doesn’t need words, it is action.
If we can go beyond telling our children about charity, if we can teach them that real charity is compassionate action, all is not lost.
Today, a smiling, dancing little girl in Chania showed an uncaring world, so caught up in itself it neither notices nor cares about those it leaves behind just how simple compassionate action is. I hope the world was watching…


Chania, Crete. 15/12/2012


Ephilant – 09/03/2013

Christmas In Captivity
December 26, 2012

There was a certain collective gloom hung over Christmas in Gaol, as I recall.  On every face you could sense that mood. Especially amongst the first timers.

Come the hour  (midnight xmas eve) you could hear a pin drop, sometimes a tear drop amongst the uncanny silence in the dark.

Individual men were having their ”Dickens of a Christmas” confronting Ghosts of Christmas’s past, Christmas present and Christmas’s yet to come. As with ”Scrooge” in” A Christmas Carol”

Psychologically, Christmas caused them to recall happier moments/or not, in different environments and so ”the seasonal spirit” had their minds elsewhere.

I’m not the greatest of singers, but Prison bars and yards and concrete blocks produces a hauntingly toned vibration that suits my voice and can be heard through every cell and beyond the block.

In eerie silence I began to say the words in rolling rhyme  (slow song)  ”Silent night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright, Round yon Virgin, Mother and child”

After ”Holy Infant” and so on, I caught the sound of the first tears with the words ”Sleep in Heavenly Peace”

For days previously the screws had placed a wee Christmas Tree near to the prisoners phone booth. A wee mind game they enjoy.

As I went to the phone I was singing to the tune of ”Walking in a Winter Wonderland” but changed the words to ”Later on, If you wanta, You can dress like Madonna, ”Walking round in Women’s Underwear!”  (Reverse Psychology)

Being a mixed Religion remand wing I’m surprised I got beyond ”Round yon Virgin” without an uproar from opposing religious based groupings.

Not a word.
Silent remained the Night and the Peace was Heavenly.

snow prison

Trow – 26/12/2012

Ode To Gordon Hudson
November 25, 2012

“You could do with a day’s work, I’d say” said the Captain of the ship, taunting me and I had that sinking feeling.   I picked myself up and dusted myself down.   Captain, I said, “listen to our plight”.   His small dead rodent eyes stared back at me.   In an instant his anger turned to discomfort as he reassured me that he felt my pain.   He pointed to the choppy sea, said if the storm got any worse we’d be all be sailing together out of the rocky harbour waters, back into the open sea and on to safety.
The Captain readjusted his cap and moved on to reassure the rest of the Islanders that the mainlanders’ thoughts were with them all and wasn’t it a nice day on this fine Island.   He told the Islanders the evacuation had been called off and they could stay where they were, as he’d been reassured by the met-service that the worst of the hurricane was going to hit further south.   The Captain glanced back at me for just a moment and his smarmy countenance left me in no doubt that his ship was not meant for the likes of me.
Slowly the Captain slipped out of view and then it was like he had never been there at all.   I knew then the Captain would never return and that we’d have to face the coming storm on our own.  I turned away from the babbling Islanders and their happy chatter, went to the pub with my own crew to plan the next course of action.   I went to the bathroom, splashed cold water on my face.   I looked at myself in the mirror and decided to carry on, for I too was a Captain of sorts.   On Golden Island, my fifteen minutes of pain had failed to kill precious hope.  The placebo effect would be short lived.

Shaadi  – 25/11/2012
[Inspired by a confrontation between Enda Kenny and an unemployed protester in an Athlone shopping centre]

Never Again
November 17, 2012

”Never again” was the cryptic clue in a mind game being played by a prison officer I’ll call Billy. [not his real name]

Billy and Lily [not her real name either] had hatched a scheme to get stress leave for the weekend. Working shifts in lieu [not getting paid but on the promise of days off in the future] I guess made them less regular down the pub on a Friday or Saturday night.

The scene was set as I heard them scheming outside my cell. Billy was to provoke a reaction out of me come my turn for the use of the phone, shower and supper.

The cell door opened and I walked out into the arena cautious that something was coming my way. The four Loyalist orderlies had positioned themselves for a ring-side view, wearing their colours [anything red white and blue] while smoky-face Lily almost tripped over herself and swallowed her fag keeping pace with things as she hurried to be near the screw’s panic button. Once she pulled that, it was over to the Ninja’s [riot squad] and like the hounds out of hell, they don’t return to their realm empty handed.

I went about my business and at every turn, Billy boy was in my face trying to get me to bite. As I moved between facilities getting the essentials, Billy was there throwing out remarks and posturing as he paced with his two thumbs anchored in the chest/armpit of his body warmer like you might see cops do on patrol.

I bided my time and as I filled my lighter with petrol, Billy began again…”Never again I tell you.” Staying cool, calm and collected I asked….”Never again what?” To which he went on to elaborate in a biting manner, ”You’ll not put us off the wings again.” He said, referring to Long Kesh were pre-ceasefires, screws weren’t permitted onto republican or loyalist wings.

”Who’s yous? I enquired, seeing as he’d placed me in some sort of collective. He gave no answer but was thinking hard.

”Too many officers were murdered and we’re not going to let yous put us off these wings like the Maze.” [Long Kesh]

I had all my essentials for the evening and although my Mothers teaching words ”Hold your tongue” were with me right through I felt the absolute need to tell Billy boy and I did…… ”It’s Prison officers with attitudes like your’s that get good decent prison officers killed.”  It left him speechless.

I returned to my cell not wanting to give him or Lily the pleasure of ”ordering me” to lock up. There was a silence, footsteps and my cell door slammed.

They’d forgotten to close my cell door flap which was a small metal door, oblong shaped and vertical. I heard Lily say, ‘‘this one next” and thought nothing of it until I heard the distinctive sound of a Travellers voice plead to have his medication and refusing to take a shower. It later transpired that the Loyalists were bullying him and I guess like so many, he felt alone and afraid.

I made my way to the cell door and turned out the cell light to take advantage of my view point and watched as Orange Lily staged managed an assault on herself.

I heard her say ”I’m gonna charge him” to the other screws and ordered the Loyalist orderlies locked.

She approached the Traveller’s cell and entered. I watched and listened as she systematically stitched him up. Out of view of the cctv camera, she smashed a glass vial [containing the Traveller’s medication] on the floor of the cell and stepped out holding her eye.

“Right, you’re on report,” she said and slammed the door, “no need for the ninjas” she said, “ he’s contained”. Lily, Billy and co sat at their desk on the wing conspiring and forging an account of the incident and soon after, Lily left the block using her fingernail to exaggerate her lie.

“See yous on Monday,” she said and as the screws were now a man down and had insufficient staff to continue work ‘for security reasons’, our wing was locked down.

Soon after, the Traveller was transferred to the punishment block and if you ever get to wondering why prisoners might despair and hang themselves and what really happens behind bars, now you know.

Trow 17/11/2012

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