Tuesday, 25 December 2018

A Criminal Christmas

Advent. The 17thday, and
same as the 16th, and the 15th,
the broad blank corridor betrays
no fingerprints of Christmas,
and even the spartan waiting room,
bleak footfall after the first
security check, offers nothing festive,
merely a Word document printed
black on white, welcoming visitors
to Her Majesty’s Prison.

A jingle, but not of bells,
scraping, but not of snow;
keys linger in locks;
gates, grilles, doors dense in
uniformity swing sullenly, and
suddenly we’re in the chapel.

Well, not much of a chapel.
Cement walls with a cross and
an icon or two, and
fifty men in pale blue t-shirts
and grey trackie bottoms,
men who’ve been ‘approved’.

The chaplain rises. Theme,
Where is God in prison?
Good luck with that one.
God was there in Belsen and Auschwitz,
we’re told. Fifty men in pale blue t-shirts
look unconvinced.

Belsen and Auschwitz.
Not perhaps the best advert
for God’s presence in prison.

Warders tell the men it’s
time to go, back down the
broad, blank corridor

back to work duties,
wings, cells, memories,
guilt, outrage, rivalries,

back to a place
where God has a criminal record,
and Christmas leaves no trace.

© Charlie Lambert

Charlie Lambert is a former sports broadcaster who began writing poetry in 2016. His work features in the recent anthology of poetry by Cumbrian poets This Place I Know, published by Handstand Press.