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DOING TIME by Jenny Martin

Arts Richmond

Online - 30 August 2020

DOING TIME by Jenny Martin

I’d never visited anyone in prison before.

A psychiatric hospital, sure, and it felt like that to begin with.

The bars you can bend with your mind, though never enough

to climb through.


The small bracelets of barbed wire that concertinaed the wall,

the flecks of glass like someone had lined up

green beer bottles and shot them from a window.


She looked tired and small: mousy without make-up –

although someone, a friend she’d made, had twisted

her auburn hair into a sleek French braid.


The water tastes funny, she said, like rain, and feels thin as rain

when you swallow it, no matter how large your mouthful.


Word on the block: a wave of strep throat was going around.

She had her tonsils out, but I should wash my hands when I left,

she said, wash my hands of everything.


She wanted to know if anyone back home had forgiven her yet, if ever.

Had I? I shook my head with a sigh,

and wondered how many times a person can say the word “Accident”

before it opens into an abyss, until they start to think “Accident” is

their name, their birth date, their place of residence.


from ABOUT TIME, the 2019 anthology of shortlisted entries from The Roger McGough Poetry Prize. Copies of this Anthology can be purchased for £5 including P&P from Arts Richmond.

DOING TIME by Jenny Martin

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