wordsout by Godfrey Rust                                     BREAKING THE CHAINS  60 of 61  The place where socks go    HOME


Double Chain

Breaking the chains

My first escape bid
came at the age of nought.
Nine months in mummy's tummy—
no more room in the womb.
So with the help of nothing
but two midwives,
one anxious father
and the best technology the NHS had to offer
(I've always been a gambler)
I made my dash for freedom,
lowering myself carefully
on the umbilical cord
ready for the big push.  

I got caught.
They threw me in the crib
for six months solitary confinement,
then two years in the cot and playpen
with nappies off for good behaviour. 

With native cunning I survived
playschool and nursery, but from then on
it was just one institution after another
until at eighteen
I came out from behind bars
and began leaning on them instead.

It soon became clear
my family was keeping me under house arrest.
My children
were born in captivity, 

and then one day with a shock I found
I had been taken hostage.
I was held alone
in a small room
for seven to eight hours at a stretch
with the minimum of comfort—
a bare desk,
a swivel chair,
a secretary,
two telephones,
an American Express card
and five weeks holiday a year. 

At weekends I got parole.
I began to look everywhere
for some hope of freedom. 

I combed the Sunday papers
and collapsed exhausted
under the weight
of the supplements. 

I bought a microwave
a dishwasher
and many labour-saving devices
but they just left me in a vacuum. 

I asked my bank manager
but he could find no interest
in anything free. 

I reached for it
in a love affair with no strings
and still got tangled up
when I pulled the other one. 

Looking deep into my personal computer
I typed ESCAPE?
and it replied
UNSPECIFIED COMMAND OR FILENAME 

I searched for it on a desert island
with only eight gramophone records
and Sue Lawley for company
but I got fed up being asked questions
so I got away
on a raft made of unused Bibles left by previous castaways. 

I opened negotiations with the Devil
who couldn't promise freedom as such
but offered some interesting terms. 

By now I had worked out
where everyone else had gone wrong
in the past.
They had made the mistake
of dying,
so I trained my body and mind
not to be a slave to anything. 

I nearly made it.
If I could just have controlled
a few small details 
like my temper,
my sex drive,
my need to eat and drink
and my annoying habit of falling unconscious
for eight hours every day,
I'm sure I would have found freedom. 

Finally I set out to look for it on the open road
in my XR3i GT soft-top Cabriolet
nought to sixty in 4.5 seconds
but I got stuck in traffic
in the Wandsworth one-way system, 

so I dialled it up on my car phone
and I got its answering machine
I'M SORRY FREEDOM IS
NOT AVAILABLE AT THE MOMENT
PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE
AFTER THE ATONEMENT
 

I had run out of ideas.
Turning on my radio I realised
I was not alone.
Whole countries were trying to get out.
Eastern Europe had made a break for it
leaving the Iron Curtain on the latch
and just a few short range missiles for cover. 

The USA
had built itself a space shuttle
but it only took six people at a time
and anyway it kept coming back. 

The Soviet Union
in desperation
attempted to declare
independence from itself, 

while Britain
just tried to tunnel its way out. 

Nobody made it.
It was easy to be wise after the event—
with all that pent-up anger,
banged up in the world day after day,
slopping out into the seas and oceans,
living three or four to a house in intolerable conditions
with nothing to do all day but live and die
it just had to e x p l o d e 

They rioted in the squares,
they lit fires in the rainforests,
they made holes in the roof. 

It was as if they'd found out
that the prison was inside them
and they were held by chains
of pride and fear and death, 

they were guilty but were hoping
that there might be some helpful miscarriage of justice,
and they were looking for a fresh alibi
when God came innocently by
disguised as a man  

saying If the Son shall make you free
you shall be free 

and they said Indeed
We don't like your kind coming in here
You're not a normal offender
You interfere with people 

Take that they said
handing him a crown
And that they said
look we've had a little whip round for you 

and they said
anything you say will be taken down
and used against you
and God said nothing
and it was taken down
and used against him 

and here they said
is something we're really cross about. 
It's our little way of saying
we blame our parents
we blame society
we blame somebody else
we blame you.
Here is your fixed penalty,
fixed to this wooden beam. 

But they didn't know
that each nail they hammered
through his wrists and ankles
broke a link of the chain that bound them 

and when he said
It is finished
and they shut him up
under maximum security
tightly wrapped
behind a stone
behind a seal
behind a guard
and dead
just to be on the safe side 

after a little while
they heard him say
Here I am
I've found the way out
and come back for you 

all charges against you have been dropped
you're free to go
and follow me
or else stay here
in the prison of yourself
if you're afraid of what it might be like
on the outside. 

The chains are broken,
look, it's you who's holding them together.


Written for an event of the same name at St John's, West Ealing in June 1990.