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Blog - Rob Punton

Battered Lives

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Clarissa Mullery at a computer

Liz Carr in the episode ‘One Day’ © BBC – Photographer Sally Mais

I have known Liz Carr for longer than either of us would like to admit. We first met as Danners in the late eighties on accessible transport, then Free Our People campaigns. We have been campaign on one thing or another ever since.

I am not surprised she has shot to mega stardom. She showed her talents to her fellow Danners on many an action.

Her portrayal of Clarissa Mullery since 2013 has inspired and entertained us all. I would especially like to mention the recent episodes ‘One Day’ first aired February 2018.

It is obvious to anyone who knows her that she had a big input on this story. As it deals with institutional care and has the thread of ‘Assisted suicide’ running through it. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but I highly recommend you do watch it. I hope we see more of her writing creativity, Director skills and humour in the future.

When I saw these episodes, they had another consequence for me they took me back to the time I spent living in institutions. Fours years in residential care, both local authority and Scope (Spastics Society to my generation) ran. The programme inspired me to write these three poems about my experiences of institutional care, as that is my chosen form of expression.

They are Darkest Days, Battery Lives and This Place. They still feel quite raw. I hope you enjoy.

Darkest of Days
I remember wheeling through
The entrance of Slippery Slope residential home
As if it was only yesterday
As the automatic doors slide silently shut
Behind me blocking out the real world
I wondered whether
I’d passed away entered
My personal hell

As I handed over my coat
I left my choice and control
In its pocket
I would never communicate
with them again
whilst within those walls
my every moment and action
planned to suit the smooth running
of the establishment
there was no room for
independent thought or
thoughts of independence
the only strong spirit seemed
to sit in bottles behind the bar
used to stupefy our souls

The only support we had
came from our peers
singularly and collectively
planning an escape to freedom
some of us made it out
some of us did not
we continue to campaign
to free our people

I only know
one thing for certain
there may be
dark days ahead
but I will fight to my dying breathe to ensure
I will never return
To those darkest of days
© Robert Punton

Battery Life
The hands on the face
Of an institutions clock
Move as if in another dimension
The time between
tick and tock
lasts an eternity
minutes seem like hours
hours seem like days
days seem like weeks
I’m sure you get my gist

Every day is facsimile
Of the day before
You know tomorrow
Will be no different

People lose their individuality
Blob or square
After endless time
We all act and look alike

We drink to drown out
The monotony of our existence
Staff and resident
Sit side my side
Viewing their world
Through the bottom
Of a spirit glass

No one comes
To this bar
To drink to remember
No one sit on the stool
To drink to forget
There is nothing to remember
There is nothing to forget
We drink ourselves
Through our lives

There is no past
There is no future
There is only this moment
Very few deliberately
Go out to hurt another
But, the pain is constant
The damage is systematic
A culture, a way of being

It s a world
Within the world
We look out on you
You look in on us
Neither sees the other
In clear full focus

Who dare burst the bubble
Let the two worlds mingle
Who knows where
Such a action may lead
It may be anarchy
It may be utopia
Until we give it ago
We will never know
© Robert Punton

This Place
Institutions are not buildings
Institutions are attitudes we build around us
Institutional care kills
May seem like a very strong statement
People do not live in this place
People exist in this place
I spent 25 years in this place
I felt pain in this place
I experienced the pain of others in this place
I saw friends die in this place
I saw loved ones die because of this place
I will break the law to destroy this place
I would rather die than return to this place
Therefore, I feel entitled to say
Institutional care kills
Institutions are not buildings
Institutions are attitudes we build around us
© Robert Punton

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Powerful poems.

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