Over the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on the journey, the most remarkable journey, that First Time Inside has taken me on.
From that early moments choice to be vulnerable sharing that first opinionated tweet on social media – to an audience of complete strangers – to sharing a stage at the National Youth Justice Conference and so many interesting junctions in between this journey has been a rollercoaster of emotion wrapped up in a determination to contribute in some small way to change.
That rollercoaster of emotion no better illustrated by the work around Hidden Voices.
Sharing the work of others, amplifying their voices, encouraging them to aspire, something many get to take for granted and creating a platform for the wider community to challenge their own perceptions has been, without a ounce of hyperbole, one of the greatest privileges of life.
The highlight of the work to date has undoubtedly been Saughton Sonnets which took a hugely diverse community on their own emotional journey as we got to know the authors and wordsmiths of HMP Edinburgh. That said not everyone who was invited to join came on that journey with us, indeed some were quite clear in their opposition to the project but I perhaps naively think that simply speaks to how far we have yet to travel as a truly inclusive society.
My fathers advice to me, when as a young boy I was selected for a regional select football team stuck with me on this journey and prevented me getting too down when some made life particularly awkward. I had said to him there were boys in the squad who I simply didn’t like and he said “that’s life son, we don’t always get to choose our teammates but if you find a way to work together you’ll earn each others respect along the way and be a better team for it” his advice has stuck with me for decades. I love and miss his wise counsel every day in life. I also see now that, in having that stability at home, I was afforded a privilege that so many are denied.
It’s my own belief that achieving meaningful change requires relentless consistency and I accepted years ago that being relentless can be abrasive to those who want to control the flow of change whilst it simultaneously creates a remarkable depth of connection with like minded souls.
In the coming weeks I’ll share more of what is planned for Hidden Voices, as it aspires to be an organisation in its own right as well as First Time Inside which will cease to offer that prehabilitative function for a period of time. It may re-emerge in a new wrapper (hopefully not the chip shop kind) or someone else may take the baton and run with it time will tell.
Placing all of that to the side if I may, today I have the honour of sharing a piece of work called Man on the Moon written by one of those talented wordsmiths of HMP Edinburgh.
A poem which perhaps shares a perspective of the drug world that not too many will have considered. I must confess it is not one that I had pondered in the past and whilst I have no expertise in how we tackle the incredibly tough challenge of drug use and recovery I believe sharing the different vantage points are of great value to us all moving forward.
Those who pick up that particular baton every day to improve the lot of the addicted have my utmost respect for their courage and commitment. As does todays poet who offers us some alternative food for thought.
At no level of society is an attitude of them and us justifiable. Just us works fine.
Thank you for meandering through my own thoughts and I hope you enjoy a safe and relaxing weekend after embracing the words of a very talented poet whose trust in allowing this platform to share is greatly appreciated (see below).
Man on the Moon
What are you left with when you stop selling the grams?
Wrapped up in paper or plastic folded or tied by your hands.
Sold to a Zombie masquerading as a vessel for a soul
Consuming narcotics ‘til near death and calling it control
But you’re not interested because that’s how it must be
Humanity locked in a box within a safe and you’ve swallowed the key
So you move and use people like their all just pawns on a board
A smile is all you can muster for the last punter who scored
But that smile means nothing because you’re not a friend
You’re a service, a provider like the chemist, a means to an end
All alone in the game, you could even be on the moon
But you’ll still be found when there’s a need to fill up a spoon
On the corner, in the park, or through your letterbox
You’re like a vending machine cyborg, mechanical robot
Surrounded by people but you’ve never felt more alone
You’re a slave to the trade and contactable by phone
You have the illusion of control but your life’s in a hole and you dug it yourself
Taunted by confusion caused by your illusions of wealth
So your generous to those closest, the one’s you trust around you
But secretly they hate you and circle like vultures to surround you
Because you’re the man with the thing that everyone wanted
You had the demons for those who choose to be haunted
Round and around it goes getting more and more out of control
The latest trainers and tracksuits can’t fill that hole in your sole
I guess I’m lost so please help I have no clue what to do
You can’t judge me until you’ve taken a step in my shoe
I need to escape I must find a way to be free
Cause when I sell you a gram I lose a little piece of me!
( P Sue Denim)
Have a wonderful day and please do feel free to comment on social media @FirstTimeInside if the poem resonated with you in any small way.