“Hauntings” and “Paddy” by Nick Moss

Just over a year ago, Dean Saunders was imprisoned for the attempted murder of his Father. The family understood that Dean needed medical and psychiatric help as the attack happened during a bout of paranoia. He shouldn’t have been put in prison, where – as has been found – support was wholly inadequate. Dean electrocuted himself in his cell and died in January last year. The year 2016 will see suicides in prisons doubling from five years ago to a record level.


Image by Nic McPhee*

This is not the only problem that prisons face because of the cuts imposed by the government during its mania of austerity. High profile prison protests, although they are termed as riots, have taken place in a number of UK prisons over the recent past. There have also been vigils held outside prisons in support of transgender prisoners as part of the International Trans Prisons Day of Action and Solidarity. Prisoners and prison officers are in agreement, there are not enough resources, both human and financial, to support an overcrowded antiquated system. But as with most of the cuts made, it falls heaviest on those weak, vulnerable, and powerless.

Nick Moss’ two poems “Hauntings” and “Paddy”, shows a more humane side of the characters that are imprisoned, and the relations between them. In Hauntings, Nick talks about a cellmate who was recently released, although it “feels like a life ago”, and how they talked “Behind a metal door/Of all the fears of home,/Of life; of kids not seen for 10 plus years;/Adrenaline kicks and white lines crossed/And snorted; anticipation of cold beers/And family curses.” But on leaving they become like ghosts – “Carrying our souls in plastic sacks/We haunt each other for a while/Then flash away/Like shadows do.” And then there are the characters you never forget, trailing their history in their conversations and actions. For Paddy, it’s “Fragments of half-remembered rebel songs/Dentures, collapsed veins and yellowed skin/Longing for the days of/The ‘RA on the wing/And you/Vicarious/Behind the wire.” A great deal of hope is lost in prisons, coloured by the past and its repeat. But in Paddy, there is some left in the “Singing and rattling round the wings/Hoping a cracked-voiced chorus/Of the Wolfe Tones/Will bring down the walls.”



Nick Moss grew up in Liverpool but now lives in London. He was released from a prison sentence last year. He began to write poetry as a way of mapping his experiences in jail, and won Koestler awards for his collection The Skeleton Choir Singing, and his poem “Never Again?” In 2016 he was awarded a May Turnbull Scholarship, and had work featured in, and performed at, the We Are All Human exhibition at the South Bank. He performs regularly and continues to write because “if we keep shouting, eventually we’ll hear each other”.



It’s a week since Peter went home
Feels like a life ago
It happens all the time
One day here
In all our lives
The next day gone
Time up or shipped out
Either way
Another voice just echoing now
On the wing

We slip in and out of each other’s lives
Walk the landings, revenants
Carrying our souls in plastic sacks
We haunt each other for a while
Then flash away
Like shadows do
When the sun hits the yard

Yesterday we talked
Behind a metal door
Of all the fears of home,
Of life; of kids not seen for 10 plus years;
Adrenaline kicks and white lines crossed
And snorted; anticipation of cold beers
And family curses
Now you’re out again
Hoping for notoriety
But knowing you just face shame

Carrying our souls in plastic sacks
We haunt each other for a while
Then flash away
Like shadows do
When the sun hits the yard

Jail-pale ghosts
No more real to each other here
Than we are to our lives at home.


Fragments of half-remembered rebel songs
Dentures, collapsed veins and yellowed skin
Longing for the days of
The ‘RA on the wing
And you
Behind the wire

The days when you first reached London
Full of love and crack and E
Days turned soon to sleeping in doorways
Robbing shops at night
Six month stretches
In Wandsworth and the Scrubs
But still the rebel
Halfway between Bobby Sands
And Elvis.

Now it’s a four year stint
A cup of the green every morning
Spice at the weekends
No visits
A letter and a postal order
Once in a while
Chance of a tag slipping daily away

Still singing
On the one road to your
Bridge over troubled waters
A sweet voice
Shite skin and life-bleared eyes
Rattling round the wing
On the cadge
For coffee, burn, sugar

Wondering where that first love went
After Holloway
She never came home
Dead, married, working for probation
For all you know

You’ll go home soon bro
A flat and a wife in Hammersmith
A son dealing weed
An overweight staffie
And not a chance
Of a chance

Fucked over

People like us
If we have dreams
The dreams end up in shop doorways
Under cardboard
Getting pissed on by strangers

Til they piss out our flame
And our legacy becomes
Shite skin and life-bleared eyes
Passed down to daughters and sons
Who carry failure in their genes
While trying to avoid
Outright defeat in a rigged, fucked game

Singing and rattling round the wings
Hoping a cracked-voiced chorus
Of the Wolfe Tones
Will bring down the walls.

*Image by Nic McPhee