Walking The Line
The cost is measured out in human lives:
the people, mostly men, who get sent down
for burglary, assault, or carrying knives,
their faces inked to resemble a sad clown.
I’m a liberal, and this fact makes my heart bleed:
some, when they are released, still cannot read.
We carried Simon Armitage’s sock
for forty-seven miles around the Dales.
We clambered over dry-stone walls and rocks.
Each night, we read our poems, drank real ales.
I wondered if this venture was worthwhile,
how much The Sock would do in ‘pounds per mile’.
I still have yet to meet this national treasure,
except, of course, on BBC Radio 4.
Few people prefer poetry to ‘Jezza’,
but Simon’s fame still travels more and more.
How much down its elasticated throat
could some brown, woollen item blackmail/coax?
My home town prison is a ‘Category A’.
A man in there lives in a Perspex box.
I struggled to see how we’d make this pay
even with Simon Armitage’s sock.
In Marsden, Hebden Bridge, in Bingley, Ilkley
we hoped the contributions would flow free.
Apart from a success at Hebden library,
the other readings were a crock of shit.
The Reader Organisation was conciliatory,
and I suppose that we all felt we’d done our bit.
Michael Stewart said that, after all four rounds,
we had collected just eighty-four pounds.
They say that it costs less to go to Eton
than to put some twat in prison for a year,
and socialists and liberals might feel beaten
by ‘under-class’ and ‘immigrant’ right-wing fear.
Incarceration, at the least, should lead
to books, so we can teach them how to read.