July 7, 2016

Three poems by Andy Brown: "Freedom Lost," "Death's Freedom," and "Is this Freedom?"

Andy Brown is an ex-prisoner, recovering addict and winner of community regeneration awards. He performs spoken word under the alter ego of The Grandad from Knowle West, relating his experiences of living in an area ranked within the worst hundred to live in within the UK.

Freedom Lost

From crown court to waiting van, handcuffed until secure within the cubicle, I do not know where I will be taken. The claustrophobic, hot space suffocates any positive thought in my mind. Other prisoners interact, dispense accusations, debate lenient sentences, and declare treachery. Knowing voices discuss tea options, I am the stranger. This is my reality for the next three years. My virgin stomach knots with anticipation and fear. I wonder about those left behind whom I loved & betrayed; I had told them two years. Then the van stops.

Voices; questions; answers; paperwork requested; checked; accepted; gates opened; engine starts then silenced; released to laughing uniforms I am taken to what I think is reception. I always knew I had appointments booked did not know when it was due but now, it is here. I will have to accept whatever prescription I am given; I know there is no well-being here.

Plenty of pillars to hide behind or to be intimidated. A television plays familiar monotonous teatime fare. I hear conversations, comparison of sentences, learn of leniency dispatched in certain courts. I curse my fate. I check other men. I am scanned. Jeff Banks suit barcoded. It points me out as different but I am not, I am like them all in this denial room. No stranger to addictive lifestyle I voraciously dined on an unending, forever-famished gambling menu.

I spot him immediately, 5’4”, fat stomach, bushy beard, smartly dressed, a paedophile surely? He will be picked on before me or any other newcomer, hope I do not share a cell with him.

Men called,
men escorted,
men processed,

my turn, I am taken, with file and questions. My suit swopped for non-entity clothing. I am given new identity, part of the database with my own assigned letters and numerals.

I am allowed a telephone call, speak with crying daughter, explain where I am, try to be positive, say I am appealing against the sentence, ask if she is ok, and tell her I love her. I do not hear her reply. My allotted time expired. I am returned to the system. Trusted inmates serve me anonymous food. I am escorted to the welcome of the wing, policed by Samaritan convicts. I am ushered into my new home, recognise newcomer sat on the top bunk. He has a fat stomach and bushy beard. He now wears the same clothes as me, has been given the same letters but a lesser number, I know he will always be ahead of me within the prison system.

I hope he does not piss on me in his sleep.

His snoring returns me to the demons in my head. I fire bullets of misery, despair and destruction at all those I love, I try to sleep but am fully awake, on the bottom bunk of a locked prison cell, waiting, remembering, tormented, scared.

Death’s Freedom

The question for today.
Alone? Do we have a say?
Guardian Angel? Yes or No?
My experience tells me it is so!
Have had so many interventions
contravening death’s conventions
staying alive when should be dead;
land in wheelbarrow, not on me head!
What about when that scaffold collapsed?
Those uncountable times that I’ve relapsed,
still alive, can’t be rid ‘o me, still fucking here
meandering through catastrophes to show no fear.

What is it? Coincidence, synchronicity or fate?
Not five minutes early, twenty seconds late,
always there, receiving at the right time
help, gifts, generous, grateful rhymes
that twist, map and show contours
promotes those relegated scores
my depression fetches, frames
release toward addict games.
Guardian Angel? Yeah,
it lets me live to tear
an obvious reality,
to die? Not free!


Is this Freedom?

I am strength in surrender
I am roar inside whimper
I am acceptance of hate
I am blind in sight
I am numb with feeling
I am safe in my nightmare
I am voice in silence
I am cheek that accepts
I am bruises of your love
I am knowledge of doubt
I am laughter in misery
I am escape by closure
I am sure in uncertainty
I am pain when you smile

~Andy Brown


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