This is a poem of great significance for me as it was the cause of my being banned from the library at HMP Highpoint, which meant no access to reference material and no access to computers for finishing my poetry. An officer decided that these verses were about her! Unbelievable but true; I have the proof if anyone is really interested and can afford to waste a couple of hours. The poem is clearly not aimed at any particular person but at those who, rather than trying to enhance their own lives, take delight in trying to diminish the lives of others. Her inability to see that was perhaps a sign of paranoia.
“Development of deeper diversity” is a typical prison system credo. “Toe by toe” was a prison programme put in place to help non-readers to read. The veiled reference to slavery underlines the little-appreciated fact that, in order for prisoners to be unlocked during the “core” day, they must work. For this work they are paid around £15 a week. Sometimes some prisoners are not allowed to work, as was my case at HMP High Down for three months. That is how you can end up locked up for 23 hours a day in an extended toilet shared with a stranger half your age. I did get an apology eventually, but they can never give me my three months back.
At High Down I finally began, after a few sad weeks in Healthcare, working in the Call Centre where, with bonuses, I made up to £41 per week – that is real prison wealth! Mostly I worked in Education at Highpoint and Hollesley Bay and enjoyed it, and even got qualified as a teacher at my own expense. The trouble is that when some officers see that you are actually participating in programmes assisting prisoners, getting treated with respect by both prisoners and prison workers and even smiling occasionally, they get envious. because their lives are miserable.
But Envy is all about those people whose opinions are obsessively influenced by what others have achieved rather than their own life experiences – those who condemn others apparently more fortunate than they are without knowledge of the facts – whether they be lawyers, jurors, policemen, journalists or voters.
O, how the mighty have fallen, so low
They who now slip through envy’s crack
Awaiting the final, fatal blow
From whiplash crash on weakened back
Has envy not extracted enough
From those once made of stronger stuff?
Where is their greater motivation?
That which moves these men to strive
To improve their life, their love, their station
They who do more than just survive
Why has society, so sore, forsaken
They who, maybe, were just once mistaken?
Bow your heads in shame, you evil envious
Think well before you dare to speak
Of things to which your mind is oblivious
Think on the wilful wrath you’ll wreak
O, praise the creations of those dumbed down
Who have refused to scrape before your crown!
And, so, we sing the anthem of mankind
Not that of a solitary, soulless nation
We need no narrow identity to find
We are of a prouder proclamation
That has appealed to many millions of men
Since time began and begins again
But, let it also be surely shown
In development of our deeper diversity
That the art of the elite or the great unknown
Will ever triumph over this adversity
Though they may suffer these arrows and slings
That egregious envy humanity brings
They burn by night these jealous fires
Or bide by day by smoky screen
Truth destroyed on funeral pyres
Envy invades any scandalous scene
Though the righteous few may not envy fear
The trusting pay their frankness dear
All can be envied of they who rise
The weak, the strong, the friend, the foe
The used, abused, accused by lies
O, shine light on their fight – their toe-by-toe!
Leave newspapers of hatred on their shelves
That they may keep their envy to themselves