Issue 011

Now sit down and don't open your mouth again / Page 2

The Prison Librarian

Everyone has a breaking point – Juror #4, 12 Angry Men

The prison sits unmistakably on the horizon.
Regardless of poetry
it remains a definitive interpretation of a prison.
Watertight. A thing that you can put in your hand
and believe in. A doorknob. A cork.

Sorry not like a cork. That might lead to an allusion,
turning the inmates into champagne.

The prison is wild with lies like this.
They sweeten the air. You can almost taste it,
these young lives fermenting. The men take new nicknames,
change their verdict, rework their teenage tattoos
into gigantic empty ideograms.

You know these people a little less every day.
In the library, an inmate has put up a poster:
                ESCAPE WITH A BOOK.
In the quiet hours you consider this,
weighing the heft of the latest Jack Reacher thriller,
wondering whether it could lay out a guard.

Maybe Steve. Probably not Warren.
Someone could tunnel under the showerblock
with a hardback edition of Midnight’s Children.
After that, its just one night sleeping rough in the forest,
insulated by Secrets of the Millionaire Mind.

You lock the office. It is 6pm.
Daniel is standing in the middle of the Fantasy section
like something incomprehensible
howled into a pillow. Daniel, you say.

Outside, it is both snowing
and not snowing. Both instances are held to be equally true.
Daniel has trained himself not to collapse ambiguity.

Its 6pm, you tell him. You realise he is praying,
filling himself with unknowns,
the cool palace of his mind stretching out in all directions,
beyond the ringroad and county borders.

As you wait to turn off the light,
you think about a book you used to own
about the Black Oak Druids.

How they thought the evening sky
was the same darkness they trapped inside graves.
The shadows somehow escaping at dusk,
rising up to scribble out the sun.

Books go missing all the time
and then the stories are forgotten, go free.

You once found a new dedication written in The Bell Jar:
For Lisa. Because it’s the only name I can remember.

Snow covers the carpark.
Only the governor’s footsteps can be seen
as he returns to his frozen vehicle.
He is thinking about the ages of his children,
adding them up, dividing them,
clicking them back together again.

He drives towards the city.
This definitive interpretation of a city.
Adjusting the rearview mirror
so he won’t have to watch
the prison dissolving silently behind him
like an aspirin, for example. Or like a prison.

Ross Sutherland is Mercy's godfather, mother and little baby. He is everything. Ross's interdisciplinary practice is typified by its good humour, wit and innovation. He is associate artist with Hide and Seek, where he developed the London Poetry Game, which is currently under development to take over the world. He is also working on a lecture-performance as part of London Word Festival and a mind-bending audio-visual feast for Mercy's next season of live work. Oliver Beavis is a freelance illustrator who lives and works in East London. His work predominantly stems from traditional mediums and often involves the addition of digital manipulation.

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