Society’s lash

cuts deep

for those who bear the scars

of doing time

at Her Majesty’s pleasure.


No chance     these days

to change the spelling or pronunciation

of a surname     as was the want

of many ancestor convicts

to separate themselves

from the rigors     of their past

when freedom finally came

after years of servitude

in this distant land…


Our young man has responsibilities

must find work…

he shops at Vinnies

covers tattoos with long sleeves

regardless of temperature

prepares a resumé

highlighting his skills

and fronts up to interviews.


‘Why have you been out of work

for so long?’ he is asked.


He tells the truth     and hears

‘We don’t employ criminals’

or     the softer version

‘I can’t risk having you on staff’.


In desperation

he skirts around probing     about

his absence from society  

and even fudges his answers…

but fools nobody

least of all himself.


Long periods of unemployment

lead to gaping holes in his work history

which bring more aggressive questions.


He is willing to work

~ wants to work ~

yet nobody will employ him     and

he continues to carry

the burden     of his misdeeds.


Is this freedom   

or merely release     to a world

riddled with judgement

and inherent restrictions?


  • c. Kathryn Coughran
  • 24th January 2019

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