Paul Tristram

There Ain’t No Rest Or Relaxation This Side Of A Prison Gate

Who’d have thought food would be
such a hassle, right?
I hate being upset and heartbroken
but it does make me anorexic,
which is a good thing
when you’re homeless.
Just watching people chewing down
all that crap outside McDonald’s
& Burger King
when I’m ‘Sparing For Change’
makes me nauseous.
I live on a tin of cold soup a day,
I get them from The Salvation Army,
people donate them.
I pick out one with a ring-pull
and drink it walking down the road
just like it’s a beer.
But when I’m not upset,
Jesus Christ! I’m ravenous.
I’m in those litter bins
scavenging for any morsel I can find
like a demented seagull.
I only get to sleep in a bed…  in prison,
I only get physical contact with people
when I’m rolled or being handcuffed.
Warmth is a strange concept,
it’s either something to do with whisky
or some almost forgotten childhood thing?
I learnt a new word in the library
the other day ‘Contentment’
I still shake my head when I think of it.
It even sounds foreign when I say it.
That’s another word
I won’t be getting too familiar with,
like ‘Limousine’ or ‘Pedicure’
Loneliness is the only true company
I’ve got… that and this sodding arthritis.
It’s Hell in the Summer
and Purgatory in the Winter.
There are Hostels and Drop-In-Centres
but you can’t climb back on the ladder
when you are so lost and damaged.
If I bust an arm or a leg
I can crawl over to A&E
and let them deal with the problem.
But a broken heart and fractured soul,
is a different story all together.
They haven’t yet invented a crutch,
wheelchair or Band-Aid for that.
And until they do, me old sunshine,
well, it’s hand to mouth constantly
and only ever scraps of almost everything.

Antony Owen

Black Broken Water

Long ago she was shunned for her face written in the fields of fire.
she told them through her eyes that rivers still flowed on her bones
and her children would live again from acts of love not hatred.

She told me of all the pale daughters who bathed in her dark waters.
I have two red ghosts she said, they wanted to be human until fire.
She told me how flames can make ice sculptures of melting children
and black rain on bleached bone roads made unforgettable synthesis.

She told me of all the pale daughters buried under the parasol tree.
I had two red rivers she said, they wanted to be human until ghosts.
She told me how one day her daughters would meet like the estuaries
and pure rain would funnel through her wrinkles back to Hiroshima.

Late last night all the pale daughters swam to me in whale light and
in their furious burning I watched how candles blow out the wind
realising darkness is a black shoal of rain. I bathed in it one last time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy Heath

The Shoemaker

News coverage of a thin man’s blue black shadow swirling in the shallow Greek sea.
When they say he will be returned to Turkey he says, have mercy.

Your dead parents perch on a branch reaching towards a landscape only you inhabit.  It is grassy, speckled with clover and vetch, harebell and flint. A chalky hollow runs through.  You descend until you reach a bridge.  A rambler in blue shorts passes by.  Swans encircle the sky.  You have a choice: go back up through the hollow where tree roots remind you of owls or follow the lane round the hill.  Both ways lead to a long-haired woman who slips out from under a craggy copse of hawthorn and sits upon a stone step.  The step is one of three leading to an oak gate.  Through the gate a path, overgrown with speedwell and buttercup, leads to a ramshackle hut with one window.  Four walls are covered in script – red on black.  A tilt of your head and the text disappears until twilight seeps in.  Only then does the story unfold.  You read of a promised foal born to that white mare you encountered once upon a time through the window of your parents’ Ford sedan.  She cantered through a stone wall and was gone. Gone from sight but in you like a dream or a heartbeat, a gift.  Years later she carried you up a mountain.  Just last year you discovered a photograph of her on your street in an artisan’s shop. You framed it and placed it above your print of a caribou in snow in moonlight.  Somehow you think of mare and caribou as cohorts in the scheme of things, propelling you along in slow animal chat.

The foal’s wobbly legs.  Her tail.  Her proximity to her mother.  These you sense.  A silver hair clasp in the shape of a child flashes in the low light of sunset.  It belongs to the woman on the step who stirs from her contemplative pose.  She whirls like a dervish calling you into the cyclone of her weight.  You have another choice to make:  go there or dissolve.  You find stillness in spinning.  Your hands hold reins made from the muscles and ligaments of your own body.  You smell blood.  Is the red script blood or fire or both?  The countryside is dense with your burning.  The arms of a warrior queen embrace you.  She has something to give you, if you could just make out what it is.  You make out with her, mouth to mouth, tongue to tongue.  A red bird alights on your head.  You see battlefields where swords lop off the wings of children, forcing them to stand on their feet.  And their feet need protection.

You search the hut for needle and thread. The long-haired woman inside of you becomes the handiwork and its quietude, its rhythm and strategies, its pattern.   Shoemaker by moonlight, you see the foal lead thousands upon thousands of small feet into the bowls of warm soapy water set out before you.  The refugee in the shallow Greek sea has never left you.  His two only words led you in.

Rob Walton

the spice of life

and in this world there are at least 57 things I have read about today that I don’t like in this world and there are at least 57 people I met last year who I may not want to break bread with in this world but I will breathe and sigh and hold out a hand of friendship which may even hold bread and in this world there are any amount of posts with which I disagree and stances I refute resist reject but I would always say that in this world I will always agree to disagree in this world and in this world I will beg to differ and let others differ in every respect and I will not cross the street in this world but I will stay and meet you in this world and I will look for the spice of life in this world and even if I don’t like the taste of it I’ll be there smiling for the next course in this world because this world is the only world we have and even a world as fucked-up as this world and it truly is a fucked-up  world is still worth shouting and arguing and fighting for this world this world this world

Charley Reay

The Threads of Us

I should be delicate as a flower
Yielding to the breeze of you
Sweet nothings spoken sweetly

Lining our nest with downy things.
Opening myself to you,
Like petals before the sun.

You should be firm as a birch rod
No thicker than your thumb
A provider of material things,

Earning our daily bread
With the sweat of your brow.
Withholding comfort.

Our yin and yan is more
Rippled than pooled
We weave our marriage

From the threads
of us, as we are:
Not as we should be.

Sheila Jacob

Father
i.m. Father Jacques Hamel 1930-2016

Such a small throat,
wafer-frail above folds
of a white linen alb
almost too heavy
for bird-light bones.

Such an old man,
not seeking death
but sensing its nearness,
hoping to go in peace
like blind Simeon.

Such a rapid step
from terror to healing,
as his life-blood
lapped into the warm
blue bowl of eternity.

Mairi Neil

November 2015 – Aftershocks

Standing together bloodied and numb
Deadly destruction all around
Terror has bruised the city’s heart
While muttered prayers abound.
Is there a sign the world will heal ––
Guidance we’d not been forsaken?
A deathly stench drifts from buildings
Row, after row, of bodies taken.

Amid the horror, fear, and sadness
Appears music for peace and love
A piano wheeled from nowhere
Imagine played as doves soar above.
Music, prayers, and songs,
Poetry and tales give people a voice
Most of us desire harmony,
A peaceful life our first choice.

Leaders meet and police raid
Angry opinions rent the air
But standing alone in city street
A young man bows in prayer…
A keffiyeh tied around blind eyes
cardboard signs at his feet
“I’m a Muslim, not a terrorist
A hug of acceptance all I seek.”

Standing together tremulous with shock,
Remnants of hate clouding around
People ignore prejudice and bigotry
A common love for humanity found.

Fine-tune ears to carefully listen
Encourage mouths to speak only love
Hearts to find peace and tolerance
Human touch gentle as feathered dove
We can stand together in peace
A strong united front to form
Legendary olive branches firm resistance
Multicultural acceptance be the norm.

Julian Isaacs

asylum

blonde as ash
blonde as Dylan
blonde as the tide that’s high
blonde as the fair wind that blew for France
blonde as corn
blonde as Marilyn
blonde as white wheat beer

red as Tampa
red as revolution
red as a beetroot though they’re purple
red as a library
red as ginger which is yellow
red as henna which is orange
red as green and gold

green as the sward
green as a gill
green as absinthe
green as Henry
green as the knight
green as Camberwell
green as England’s pleasant land
where fettered folk of narrow mind
completely fail to understand

the true meaning of colour blind

Frederick Foote

A brief History of the African-American People and Law Enforcement in the United States of America

Introduction
The history of African-American people and law enforcement in the US demonstrates a remarkably consistent pattern of law enforcement domestic terrorism against African-American communities. US law enforcement has enforced African-American slavery; coerced African-American into convict labor systems that were more heinous than slavery; supported and participated in lynching and anti-black riots, and engaged in a pattern of harassment, humiliation, brutality, and murder that has gone largely unchecked by government or law.

Slavery Era
Since, at least, the year 1619 African people were imported into the British colonies and the United States against their will. These Africans were indentured servants or slaves. As indentured servants they had few legal rights. As slaves, they had almost no legal rights or access to the courts or justice systems. A major role of law enforcement during slavery was to ensure that the enslaved remained enslaved and that the escaped slaves were returned to their owners.

Post Slavery Era
During the numerous anti-black riots from the 1860s to the 1920s law enforcement rarely protected blacksiii and the judicial system rarely prosecuted whites for their assaults on blacks.iv There were twenty-six white race riots in the summer of 1919 alone.v Police often sided with and joined with the white rioters.

Lynching was a common form of domestic terrorism.vi Again, whites were rarely arrested in a black lynching, even where the culprits were known to the community and the law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers were often part of the lynching process.vii

The Civil Rights Era
During the civil rights movement from the 1950s through the early 1970s, the FBI conspired to undermine civil rights organizations, and local law enforcement felt free to attack Black demonstrations and organizations with impunity.viii The police assassination of Fred Hampton and the many law enforcement attacks on the Black Panther Party are examples of these persecutions.

In the south, the law enforcement structure was almost wholly in the hands of white racist. It was a vicious and uncompromising brand of legal terrorism augmented by the Klu Klux Klan and other terrorist organizations protected by the Southern legal system and the studied indifference of the federal government.

The Post-Civil Rights Eras
During the post-civil rights eras, law enforcement continued to act with relative impunity when they attacked, abused, or murdered African-Americans. Law enforcement officers were immune from punishment for the vast majority of their attacks on African-Americans. This was a form of state terrorism that re-enforced African-American community powerlessness against the very government that was supposed to protect us.

The War on Drugs
This terrorism accelerated with the war on drugs which disproportionally targeted black, brown and poor communities.ix The police had incentives for locking up attacking and abusing members of the black community. Funding for drug task forces were often based on the number of arrest made.xxi The number of arrest made became a standard for police officer evaluation. The greater the number of arrest the higher the prestige and promotional opportunities for the arresting officers.xii

The Mass Incarceration of Black and Brown Males
“[The] Adult correctional systems supervised an estimated 6,851,000 persons at year end 2014.”xiii While African-Americans are about thirteen percent of the US population they are about thirty-six percent of the correctional system population.xiv The burgeoning prison population was a godsend for law enforcement, correctional officers, judges and courts. Politicians rode the law and order theme into office again and again. Federal and state governments developed a criminal justice system biased for conviction and created punitive correctional systems with few redeeming qualities.

The Tools of Mass Incarceration
The judicial system was re-invented as a conviction system in the period from 1960 to 1990 using inflated mandatory sentencing rules and plea bargaining to coerce confessions.xv Those convicted were, again, disproportionately black, brown, and poor peoples.

Plea bargaining is a form of overbearing intimidation that leads some innocent parties to plead guilty. Guilty pleas are extracted based on the prosecution threatening extreme sentences if the defendant chooses to go trial.xvi At trial the state has the preponderance of resources. The police can and do hide the truth and lie with the support of their fellow officersxvii and the complicity or indifference of the judges.xviii Prosecutors violate the disclosure and procedural rulesxix with the same impunity as their brothers and sisters in blue.xx It is estimated that about 95% of all felony cases that are not dismissed are plea bargained. The right to a jury trial is a modern myth.

At the same time, resources provided to defense counsel are, in many cases, insufficient to provide an adequate defense.xxi Therefore, it appears many defendants were convicted with ineffective assistance of counsel.

The long-term effects of the war on drugs tilted at black, brown and poor communities have resulted in devastation for many of these communities and lost lives and productivities from millions of young black and brown men. The human waste involved in this mass incarceration process is incalculable.xxii

Conclusion
There is no single period in US history where law enforcement has not represented an oppressive presence in and a threat to the African-American community. This is true in every region of the country.

When one adds to this litany of historical abuses, law enforcement’s oppressive, excessive, and humiliating pedestrian stop and frisk practicesxxiii and stop and search of drivers and their vehiclesxxiv one can view the US black communities as being under continuous law enforcement assault.

Notes
i Black Codes, http://history-world.org/black_codes.htm ii Vagrancy Laws, Poll Taxes, Financialization and the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Mississippi, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/12629-vagrancy-laws-poll-taxes-financialization-and-the-school-to-prison-pipeline-in-mississippiiii The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States, 1880-1950, http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1979/2/79.02.04.x.html iv Forgetten White Race Riots and What We can Learn From Them, http://townhall.com/columnists/jackkerwick/2014/09/17/forgotten-white-race-riots-and-what-we-can-learn-from-them-n1893122 v A History of “White Race Riots” In America, https://mediadiversified.org/2014/12/01/a-history-of-white-race-riots-in-america/ vi Even More Black People Where Lynched in the US Than Previously Thought, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/02/10/even-more-black-people-were-lynched-in-the-u-s-than-previously-thought-study-finds/?utm_term=.20188386a982 vii Police and State Involvement with Lynching, https://statesanctioned.com/police-and-state-involvement-with-lynching/ viii COINTELPRO, http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/RANCHO/POLITICS/COINTELPRO/COINTELPRO-FBI.docs.html ix The Drug War as Race War, http://racism.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=820:crime09-1&catid=142&Itemid=155 xx Distorted Financial Incentives for Law Enforcement, http://www.drugpolicy.org/distorted-financial-incentives-enforcement

 

Grame Fletcher

Oud

He clutched his grandfather’s oud, strings towards him, as tightly and fiercely to his chest as his brothers their AK-47s when they’d gone to fight.

Perhaps, some day, he’ll learn to play it.

It was the only thing in the house untouched by the explosion. His grandmother, father, mother and little sister – scattered anatomised, almost atomised, aerosolised around the ruins.

His brothers? Who knows? He didn’t believe in anything any more. Felt nothing – neither despair nor hope. Grief nor anger.