by les cole
Writings from Winchester Prison in 2011, by Hampshire poet Leslie Cole.
|The Ballad Of Winchester Jail
I would not stand nor raise my hand,
But sat in sullen gloom,
As men in dress and wigs impressed,
My vices on the room,
And as my fate was meted out,
Went meekly to my doom.
A sentence of imprisonment.
Was deemed a fair riposte,
For months of social deviance,
Four months of life it cost,
To such a place no soul should face,
Or threshold ever cross!!
In menace and with gravity,
The transportation came,
To consume me in its confines, as
The warder called my name,
And once aboard my soul was lost,
I'd never be the same.
The shadows of the prison wall,
Came lurching into view,
And confessed to keeping secrets in,
As high walls often do.
Not only do they keep in fear,
The world they keep out too.
If ever should a prison wall,
With windows be adorned,
The casual eye of passers-by,
Should earnestly be warned,
That beastly con they look upon,
Is by a mother mourned.
With scandalous abandonment,
One man bemoaned his fate,
Whilst the warders kicked their polished heels,
Against the prison gate,
And ushered in us startled lambs,
With smiles swathed in hate,
And once inside the walls we trod,
A path well trod before,
On landings steeped in misery,
Where men were men no more,
But paid the debts society,
Decreed was owed in law.
And once a day in blue and grey,
Came men with shuffling feet,
To march in pairs on concrete squares,
Where captive friends should meet.
To wallow in a sea of grief,
Their grief themselves to cheat.
And on the Sabbath, sat as one,
The Sinner and the Screw,
That each may sin no more, we prayed,
Upon the aged pew,
That each might clear his debt with He,
To whom his debt is due!
We slept on beds of solitude,
A shallow fitful rest,
Enveloped by the shadowed bars,
Each cell a morbid nest,
Yet every eye must seek to sleep,
And every soul must rest.
And once in sleep to dream of peace,
Where peace to dream is rare,
As in that maudlin maze of men,
Foul dirges filled the air,
And how it pains the ears to hear,
A brother in despair.
To listen as a bitter breath,
Is drawn from captive lung,
For every awful sound that's sent,
From sharp and savage tongue,
Has been composed by broken hearts,
And through a tear been sung.
We should not laud the law-breaker,
Nor celebrate his crime,
But how should men be bettered when,
Reform is judged on time,
And calls for penal overhaul,
Requested in a rhyme?