Alan Price

Three Views of Old Baltic Prisons


(1) Vilnius

Two cell boxes. 0.6 metres of silence, filth & space.
Fresh prisoners. Brought to a solitude made ecstatic.
Reciting, in bruised heads, sacred information of weapons
and numbers. Fantasising that all men struggling
to be compact angels, in war time, never divulge
plans to overcome themselves, nor the enemy.
Duty officer waiting, one floor above.
No obvious guts to be a devil.
Processing the papers for the newly fallen,
and the interrogator of the day.
After the war, six even smaller boxes were constructed.
Wings were torn off. The arrested could only stand.
When Stalin decided to die, all boxes were re-thought.
Now, more of a post angel, you were required to sit down.
Take the weight of your feet. Succumb to the great disclosure.
You couldn’t transcend your shrunken box. And they waited.


(2) Tallinn

Crutch, on a metal stand, in the corridor.
Broken cd case. Large tyre of a truck.
Bag of workman’s clothes stuffed inside a soaking red pullover.
Gas cylinder. False teeth. Toothpaste. Razors.
Magazine picture of Jordan pasted over a bunk.
Her left breast torn adrift. Dangling implant.
Six tiny stickers of Andy Warhol’s face, stuck to a white tilled wall.

Premek has continued to shoot bull brother
A message, in black fibre tip pen, on the operating table.

Was Premek a Czech named guard who repeatedly fired his gun
at the fallen body of a man called Bull who was once his comrade?

Or was Premek a Czech tourist inmate, who having paid
his 40 euro share, of the group charge, proceeded to shoot up heroin,
for the night, and spoke bullshit to his mates?

Through the prison window you can see the harbour.
Wind and sea hitting large hard rocks.

(3) Riga

Seven armies occupied Latvia for 90 years.
A voice of apathy. Respectful young man.
Paid buttons to narrate its history.
He is not a prison warden but a museum guide.
Perhaps that is worse.

So answer me this. How many fitted into one cell?
And tell me where was the warmest part?

If I’d known, in advance, the answers I would
have had to have been the bureaucratic fiend
who instructed the bricklayer to build
an economical trap for bodies.
Have asked the glazier to smash the barred window.
Coaxed the sun, absent of any papers, to freely enter
and heat the lucky man standing on another’s shoulders.

Alan Price © 2014