Todays blog and poetry is written by one of our Hidden Voices no longer in prison but trying to build a new life back in the community. Take it away Paula.
“Ok, I’m Paula, first and foremost my life before taking part in Saughton Sonnets was a nightmare.
No one knew but I was disappointed with myself every morning when I woke up.
I was a crack addict but I have to be honest I was definitely one of the “good ones or maybe lucky ones”. I’ve never hurt anyone or stolen from anybody. There is not any excuse for my addiction but my reasoning, such as it was, was I was cursed. In 3 of my poems today I will try to explain my thinking.
Last year, while in prison, I joined in a competition which “blew up” the Governor had no clue so many people would enter. 51 to be exact and I was one of the winners I still can’t believe it even though I know it happened.
I got the privilege to meet Gerry from Hidden Voices, poor guy couldn’t get a word in. But there were a few words that he said and The Governor and a nice lady who were also there agreed with these words that caused me to change my whole life, and I quote I asked “what, they really liked my poem??”
Gerry replied earnestly “NO Paula THEY ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT”. I’m telling you that this has changed me. No one ever said (no one important) that I was as good as I know I can be or even better now. But Gerry didn’t stop there he helped me when I got out as well. He found people to help with my flat and he got me a laptop from someone I don’t know who but the laptop is my new best friend I have called her Enigma.
He is getting me involved in ahem ahem (I’ve got a huge smirk on my face) IVE BEEN ASKED TO BE A HIDDEN VOICES JUDGE !!!ME!!! LITTLE OLD ME.
He introduced me online to people who have helped me get a blog set up which I put something up on every day. He’s made me see I was wasting my life. He WAS my guardian angel. Gerry no words can express my thanks or gratitude. Love u to bits my friend xxxxx. I hope people don’t mind these words, I know Gerry will hate them but he has promised not to change them 🙂 Now he’s got me a new hashtag for Twitter although I’m needing help how to use it for my poetry #TheBubblyPoet so that people can find me online too.
Because things have been going well I am getting to move into a furnished flat in four weeks time too. Thank you everyone on the Saughton Sonnets community you are all my friends in lockdown and you have helped me see how different life can be. I don’t feel hidden anymore, you all read my wee poem and your comments gave me courage.
My poems are raw but real and changing with life. The first one is how you met me and the rest a bit more of me. Don’t be scared to tell me what you think. Ok that’s me now you can read some more without me talking in your ear.”
Found a Friend on Lockdown
Sitting here in lockdown I got lost inside a book
Not much way of comfort, chocolate was all it took
I was sitting reading in my cell but got rudely interrupted
I flew up to my sweetie stash which was terribly corrupted
I counted all my sweets but one? How could this be?
A mouse was running we the last mars bar! He’d made an enemy
I pounced but flounced and saw him scurry over the floor
I had to grab him in a hurry before he reached for something more.
I held him in a vice like grip then saw a tear jerk from his eyes
It didn’t matter what he had done. I couldn’t bring his demise
“Gone then Miss Convict! Go on tak my life”
“Being a prison mouse is nought but hell and strife”
“Ah waz born and bred in Saughton ma daddy wiz a rat”
“He used to beat me badly but ell no go intae that”
With that he reached an pulled the fur back from his paw
There tattooed was a skull and crossbone’s I saw.
“Oh man that’s grim” I said. “You can come stay with me.
As long as you behave yourself I’ll not charge any fee”.
I made a wee pal in lockdown an saved him from myself
Now all that’s left is to protect him from everybody else!
“I found friends, maybe unlikely ones and a purpose for life in Lockdown.”
I wonder where you are tonight?
Do you look down upon me from stars so bright?
A red, red rose upon your chest
That I laid upon your ice cold breast
You feel no more pain for that I am genuinely glad
But Dad you left me a mess and for ten years I was always sad
I cannot hear your laughter, I cannot see your tears
I hope what you sought after was worth the pain for all those years
You took the pills and drank that wine so never again you would open those baby blues.
Wasn’t I worth hanging around for? Was I worth so little to you?
I’ll always be “daddys girl” now you have mum and near all the family
Just remember dad to not forget to keep a wee space for me.
#My father killed himself 2nd November 1998 (2 weeks before my 18th birthday) I wrote this the night after his funeral.
SAY A LITTLE PRAYER FOR YOU GOD
I realise today after spending time with your son
That the majority of humans only pray for number one
So I wish to take some time to thank you
And let you know that I love you too
Thank you God, for well keeping me alive
Thank you father for the ability to tell little white lies
I’m repenting father as I’m aware I’ve been a sinner
I know your aware I don’t say grace before my dinner
How can I not thank you for my own free choice
Well thanks a lot father now I no longer have a voice
Im remorseful that I’ve now ended up in jail
And so apologetic that I’ve still failed to prevail
You took all but 4 of all the kin that were before me
Tell me NOW Father when will I be rendered spiritually FREE?
I take responsibility so when will freedom touch my life
Also not only did you take my Dad you’ve now gone and took his wife
Father this poem sounds angry, but angry I am certainly not
Im just confused and frustrated at being forsaken and forgot
YOU gave me these words and you also granted me the wisdom
To know for an absolute fact that I belong in your kingdom
You told me through another that I would be fruitful if I carried on writing
That’s enough for now I don’t want us to ever again be fighting
“I had always wanted to write an autobiography and as I was sitting mulling it over whether I should or not I scribbled the 1st few pages down then I got a chap on my cell door. the officer comes in “chaplains here to see you , u wantin to see him?” well if this wasn’t a sign I should write the book I don’t know what is. I met Eddie the prison chaplain and every Friday you had to put your name in the book if you want to see him and I hadn’t ever put my name in. I’ll leave you with that thought.”
Darkness has lost
I feel your breath still echoing in my mind
Your no longer with me and I no I’m still right of mind
My body and soul ache for the love I knew just one time
So why am I destined to be alone is this a burden of thine?
Eyes shut, mind racing about the lifetime been and gone
WASTED! I missed every bloody sign to correct my wrongs
They were obvious now that I look back in time
When I FINALLY found real love God took him said “no he wasn’t mine”
Darkness overwhelmed me for years it gained success
I’ve finally clambered out this abyss but everything is a mess!
It tries to put its cloak on me i can see it hard at work
I’m trying so hard to ignore it, but the light it really hurts
Stay at bay you monsters I don’t want you anymore
I’ve been shown the light you gargoyle so now! There’s the bloody door
I know you’re coming to me in my dreams trying to force my forgiven guilt
You’re not winning this time your addiction flower has already begun to wilt
Youve had plenty from my soul what more do you want
God has me under his wing now so go find another to haunt
A lot of years this monster had grip around my up, down left and right
not any longer I’m proud to say i lost a few battles but i won this fight!!
“After I lost my mum and brother 4 years ago in a fire I went to the darkest abyss of my own very soul that the darkness has owned for many years. Due to drug addiction and a never ending self destructive loop. Now I know you must think (Is she in love we this Gerry dude, hahahaha) nah Gerry along with the people he has introduced me to and of course my chaplain of the prison who is now my great friend, helped me battle through all I’d lost and loved and come into the light. Lets say Gerry is and was my guide by making me realise I was wasted in prison as I had a talent. So I feel he helped lead me out of the darkness into the light.”
I’ve got a magic pencil. I’ts infilled deep with my crazy but loving thoughts
“Talking shite” I can hear you say , however I shit you not!
Ive infiltrated it with moonlight I also baithed it in the sun
The most important parts of nature, pure phenomenon
I know this from experience its kind of like power of suggestion a bit
And ive witness first hand, if I say that a token will bring luck it does I swear that ive seen it..
I had to get my life back on track and believed I had a very lucky pencil
If I couldn’t find that particular one , well my writing was terrible
I knew it was in my mind but now ive got something better her names enigma
Its my computer and I could write a poem on anything, plums,love hurt or salsa
People laugh out loud when they read some of my poetry I gave this amiss
Makes me so very happy I just want to make it all move quicker than this
So im keeping on going im going to look for some more competitions
As none of you have yet read any of my deep profound workings
So I hope you enjoy my writing but im way to make each one count
That way im not just babbling and im each and all of them amount…..
Amount to something and make a kind of mark
That way people can recall the words whilst strolling through the park
“I got a pencil from my favourite officer stevie and after he gave me it I could not write a decent poem without that blooming thing hahahaha. I still have it lol.”
“Hey boss! can be no see I’m here fir nae reason?”
Screws are treating is like ahh just committed treason.
“hoi boss (I shout through the crack in my door) I never got exercise”.
“I’ve heard that ane before so Denny gee me yer lies”.
No one listens and the healthcare a sham.
“just give me some Valium that will shut is up man!”
Why do I need to be here for this really long while?
I never got an interview never mind a trial!
They barely get the one’s who deserve to be in jail.
Am getting tiresome of them always photocopying my mail.
This is in case I’m trying to smuggle in “legal”.
If they think id on purpose inhale fish tranquilizer there in denial
Lumee oor let is go am wanting a p.fs release
It’s goanna tak’ forever an a day for this brow to uncrease
Show me the way home cos im lost
Lost in a repetitive nightmare its all at my own cost.
“this poem was a bit of fun just explaining that even though your telling the truth that sometimes the officers have heard so many lies your classed as one and the same.”
RUN RABBIT RUN
Poor little rabbit full of shivers he doesn’t realise what is to come
For an angry gamekeeper comes searching with his headlamp and his gun
Run, run get home with your family back to your nest
The lamp stuns him and he’s no time to protest
The gun is cocked and there the monster takes aim
Why doesn’t he run he doesn’t seem in any pain
Rapid beating in his chest he tries to run but with a bang
He sits by one of his family that has been left to hang
Slowly, slowly the little guy is dying
Look close enough his eyes , are crying
They are not the first , this will not be the last
Eyes close now his heart no longer fast
“I used to go out with a gamekeeper and I would stomp my feet, cry, beg and plead so he wouldn’t go out “lamping”. We would take the range rover and go out and fire a few shots. At least in the 6 months I was there no bunnies got shot.”
Woes, woes me what a bloody nightmare this turned out tae be!
Its just my luck this has yet again happened to me
Not only am I on on lockdown im also “locked right in”
Again I’m interrupted. What is all that bloody din?
Someones shouting, screaming and bawling! Its pointless just get on wae it
Some of them kicking and screaming, fist clenched taking fits
Accept the punishment, if u do the crime u do the time you know that for Gods sake
You’re the only one that put you here its what you did are you asleep or awake?
Nae need to become unruly its no gonna help your case
Im sure they like the screech the sound their voices make
So I hear you ask “how can you bend to accept your fate?
That one is pretty easy my heads always halfway oot the gate
Someone’s throwing a tantrum I pity they pair screws
Sounds like that’s a telly smashed now how they going to watch the news
There is no use in fighting, fighting the system I meant
Cos’ I reckon everyone of them is here by fate straight from heaven sent
So if you ever go looking, looking for my name in print
“buyer beware” it should say because a lot of my poetry is raw and real, some are obviously different
I love my writing its made me feel that im back to being me
I want to let the whole world get a look, I will I bet, you’ll see
“I wrote this to stop actually shouting SHUT UP to whoever it was kicking off that night. This wasn’t so frequent in Saughton but its bad in other prisons.”
Whispering willow where are you? Don’t you remember all that we used to do?
I would pretend your flowering buds were mini bunny rabbits and we used too..
Play hide and seek with all our imaginary friends
We would save wee birdies who had broken their wings
I’d keep you from Chester the cat cos I remember him eating my poor budgie
Even though you were from a tree he could hae still had you for his tea
I miss you I live in the city and there are none of you around
Member the frog we saved that got stunned from a fox-hound?
Do you remember when we went outside with the umbrella and tried to fly
I believed in Mary poppins I still do im not too sure why?
I hope I get to see you again soon as I miss you all so much
It’s really sad when true pals grow out of touch.
“Whispering willow is all about my willow tree in our garden when I was four years old. I had An imaginary friend called Uncle Monster and I also loved that willow tree. I would pick around five or six buds as the fur (hairs for capturing something I don’t recall a name) a day and these were my friends as we lived in washer willies cottage in fife (called this because there was an actual wishing well at the bottom. I sat under that tree for many years and we had many an adventure under that tree (in my imagination). So how could i not honour my friend xxx”
We can’t go back in time, thus i realise this but I needn’t feel worry nor do you,
For I had a dream Thats about to come completely true
I met a man with a cloak so bright i could barely look at it
It was cold so he said “come my little one where this fire is lit
Puzzled but excited i went to speak to the man
He said “paula where’s your bubbliness gone? and your tan??
I moaned about my troubles for a little while
then he flew me to the future so i could see it for miles’
“Your about to make all your dreams come true
your going to live in a beautiful house painted whichever colour you choose
you will have a stable with horses all of your own
also a desk upon all your writings in books are all sown
Youve been a good girl so don’t fret anymore
you smile all the time soon you will smile so much more
you have an angel who watches over you
they have told me the things your trying and getting to do
I said a bit befuddled now” but i sit alone so who could that be?”
“oh my dear friend you have so many you see
“You have ones in spirit and ones in reality
“one of the names my dear one, his name is Gerry”
Oh my god now i know everything will be just fine
this is the man that first got me to rhyme!!!
my poems came more frequent and solid after i met this man
So life is about to be perfect. still not sure about the tan.
The End – But Only For Now – Thank you.
Thanks to Paula for so courageously writing and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read. Paula has also started writing a book and is available to follow on Twitter @PaulaClare10 where you can find out more. Thanks also to Jim Watson – one of our Hidden Voices Community – who helped Paula get online with her blog and also to Shumela at the Resilience Learning Partnership who supported Paula in those early days with amongst other things their amazing lockdown boxes. Please take some time to offer Paula some feedback as she looks to continue her writing and her journey in life.
When I started this FTI journey I was convinced that people need to engage with the possibility that there but for the grace of their God go they, I am resolute in that belief today. Language is a superpower and those blessed with voices of influence must take greater care when sharing their words. There is a journey from sterility of message to positive visceral connection, let’s take that together.
We still have copies of our Saughton Sonnets Anthology available should you wish to engage with a range of authentic Hidden Voices sharing their experiences of being Locked Up in Lockdown.
From Hidden Voices and First Time Inside have a safe and wonderful weekend when it arrives. @FirstTimeInside out.