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Exercise Yard

by Mike Nicholls, HMP Dartmoor

The free man’s sun shines down upon the yard.

Sunlight, like stars, glints from the razor wire.

Embedded flakes of mica shine from out

The granite blocks that shape the cruel walls.


A raucous laugh rings out from one who has

Forgotten for the moment how he’s caged

And others share his momentary joy:

We captives are at exercise today.


A seagull circles, silent overhead –

Unknown to it confinement such as ours.

For him the sea, the moor and endless sky

Are kingdom free and freedom’s legacy.


Soft breezes blow to cool our captive trudge

Where we, about the yard, still penned, can go

In endless goal-less ambulation round,

Until recalled, too soon, again to bars.


Yet here, above all else, there’s time to think:

The days will dawn when we are free again

And, taking lessons learned whilst kept confined,

Can exercise in boundless open space.


First published in Inside Time