My da was ‘working away’; we went to school,
he never mentioned that he was leaving
Why would he leave without a word or a kiss;
wasn’t that rather amiss?
My ma had been crying, and I wondered
if they’d had a fight, but yet, his clothes
were all there, apart from his suit
and his black shoes
Sent over to the shops for milk and bread
The shopkeeper looked at me differently
I was old for my years and I sensed judgement
in those eyes of hers
The neighbours looked but avoided eye contact
No hello or smile
Ma slept a lot and she was always skint
Sunday was the worst; no ice cream for us
If da was working away, why didn’t he send money?
Does he not love us?
And why didn’t he take his clothes?
If yer da’s working away,
why do you get free dinners?
My classmates taunted me;
did they know something I didn’t?
And then it happened, my teachers
whispering in the class
My friend heard them say that da had been put away
and my sorrow turned to shame
We were outcasts, or so it seemed
What did this mean?
Would da be put away for good?
Would we never see him again?
One year passed and we visited him
He wore a red striped shirt
and he had a beard and I couldn’t touch him
through the reinforced glass
Forty five minutes we had
He gave the warden some dainties for us
I wondered how he got to the shops
And then the bell rang; all we saw was his back
as he walked away
Why am I writing this, I hear you say
Well, magic for me was when da came home
And he wasn’t behind reinforced glass and
I could touch his beard
When a parent goes to jail,
the family serve the time, without the luxury
of a heated cell and three hot meals a day
They serve their sentence,
consumed with shame and worthlessness