Sunday Visits


They rise early     gather ID     prepare

for the tedious     much awaited

and never missed

weekly visit.


On arrival they face abuse     long delays

the humiliation of being searched

and may even be turned away

on some minor pretext

that is not negotiable.


The ever-present guards

with guns and sniffer dogs

ensure no gifts     no privacy

no intimacy.

Chatter     clatter   

and cigarette smoke

fill the crowded room.


With pain in their hearts

and sometimes misty eyes

they talk     mostly superficially

they joke     mostly to cover feelings

they eat     mostly to kill time

they play     to keep kids occupied.


Exhausted     they face

the return journey

and the sad week ahead.

Their loved one     is searched

to ensure no contraband

has been passed.


Each mentally marks off

one more week.




The toddler     is excited

to see Daddy

cuddles and kisses him.


He didn’t like the first place

where they were caged

with other families

sat at tables and chairs

bolted to the floor

were not allowed     food

or drink.


Now     he plays on swings

until driven back     to the warmth

by cutting winds     drizzle

and stinging nose.


He avoids the rough kids

wanders     around the room

entertains prisoners

and their visitors

explores picnic baskets

and wonders why his dad

and the men in green

live there     and not at home

with their families.

c.  Kathryn Coughran


First published: 1994

In: Family Matters

(Kathryn Andersen)