HMP Cooking and Equality come from M James’ Crime, Love and Literature, a collection of a total of 21 poems, which received a Platinum Award at this year’s Koestler Awards.
I was raw from the gangster’s butchers
On Poverty Street.
Grilled in a police station,
Packaged in a cell like meat,
Seasoned up on remand with the usual
Smile: ‘keep him sweet’.
Then the judge fried me with 18 years
Through a gaze that seared my skin
And sent me down to boil with rage.
The spillage on the daily baking-paper
Said I’d been given a large serving of thyme.
To today’s palates
Not using so much would have been a crime.
My sauciness simmered
As the killer bacteria left my bones.
My rich smell steamed out
Scenting the home.
I was hot-headed before,
But cooled right down.
Taste buds began to desire
Me, but weren’t sure if I’d
Go well with wine.
They probed and tested my temperature
For any hidden danger
With a sharp stab of patronisation.
“All seems fine,” Chef Parole said
He didn’t want the responsibility
Of anyone catching food poisoning,
So he left me in the pot for longer.
“There’s too much spice and too many meatheads
Don’t roast me for too long.
I could burn
Or I could be the nicest chicken
The world’s ever tasted.
“I’m now infused with the essence of a sage
Leaf and taste like a clever little stew.
Try me now!”
When we come together
Words like racism
Will become Old English,
The tides will remain
On the shores of our hearts
Teaching schools of young fish
To swim together.
When we connect
On broken concrete
Acid will stop eroding streets;
Hearts will burn with amour
Allowing elders to enjoy
The end of ‘World War’.
When we judge minds
Rather than gender
And open our blinds
To Love’s sunshine
Many might not feel
Their status is a crime.
When we smile.
When we believe.
When we materialise these dreams
A new word
into dictionaries –
(Painting by Edward, a Gold Award recipient at Koestler Awards 2018)