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June 3, 2019 | by  | in Features Splash | [ssba]

We’ll Meet Again

To everyone I lost to incarceration:


The worst thing about prison is the unknowns.

I haven’t been to prison. I don’t have a criminal record—but you do. You’re not currently incarcerated, but will be soon. Or, you’re about to enter the system again. Or can’t afford to make any more mistakes… Or, are living out your life, ruined inside. As if predestined by a higher power, you, and everybody else, take your turn being institutionalised, to come out as a ward of the system, your lives no longer your own.


We all know that decisions have consequences. And you, too, knew that only ill would come from the decisions you made. “Do the crime, do the time.” Which is fine, I guess, for someone who’s never done either.


But my mates were taught to take, take everything they could, because nothing was given to them. So it makes sense. To make that decision, to take chances. And what’s a life without a risk anyway?


But that risk was different for you. Your margin for error was that much smaller, because who can make perfect decisions under immense pressure all of the time? Add in poor mental health and a drug habit, and suddenly that risk, well, it overwhelms the decision. Sucks you in, becomes the only option ‘till the idea of a conscious decision is moot.


A lot of the pain is in the waiting. Waiting to see where you will end up, waiting to see what you’ve been given. Waiting to find out when we will meet again, if we will meet again. What will become of you, another lab rat in a dark corner of the New Zealand-sponsored Serco incarceration experiment.


My memory of you and who we used to be will no longer be reality. This is something I have come to expect. Prison will change you, terraform you into a person you didn’t have to be—but became regardless, because you didn’t have a choice. Because the drugs forced you into action. I don’t condone that action. But you did what you had to do, and I respect your decision, and love you nonetheless. Because it was you or them, and so it had to be you to survive. If you tell me you didn’t mean to do it, you didn’t do it. I will believe you; you are right. You were never wrong. You made some decisions that had bad consequences, but I cannot see you as wrong. I love you too much for that.


Seven years is a long time. It seems longer, knowing you would be eligible for parole sooner, had you actually taken another person’s life. And even when you are eligible for parole, the likelihood of receiving it isn’t high. After all, institutionalisation doesn’t mean you’re safe.  You will do what you have to do, just as you’ve always done. And if that leads to more negative consequences, then so be it. I don’t blame you, it had to be done.


I believe you, because, like I said, I love you. And I will love you forever, which means I want more for you than you can want or see for yourself. Love is blindly patient, so what you do might hurt my heart, but I won’t close it off to you. And though I have to change my sender’s address when I write to you—letters to Rimutaka or Whanganui sent from a PO box, in case you make the decision to visit and your reality is too different to mine—do not be offended. If you are still awash in the miasma of drugs that drove you to do what you did, I will not reject you, nor look down on you. I will do my best to give you what you need, though I do not think I will be enough.


So until we meet again I’ll keep you close,

Across my chest and under my shirt.

And though my arms were too skinny to hold us all up, that grief is too heavy to bench-press, no matter how many reps you do.


And you can’t break bars to see them again, no matter how many times you leap in to sparring, as if through violence I could hurt someone enough to bring you back. My knuckles bear the reminders of every misguided attempt to explain why I am here and you are not. I can’t compromise myself anymore, join you in that dark place while trying to reconcile why I let you slip away.


After all, what good would it be if I ended up in the same position? You see, being convicted of a crime is like dying, and the prison term like the cemetery—except you get to see who comes and tends to your burial plot, who cleans the headstone, who lays flowers on your grave. If I too, sat in a 6 x 4 cell, six feet under, who would look after the graves? Who would visit, to love and lose anew each time?

This is to all of my brothers locked up; for our 10,435 unknown warriors, lost in the system.


Te mamae nei a te pōuri nui

Tēnei rā e te tau

Auē hoki mai rā ki te kāinga tūturu

E tatari atu nei ki a koutou

Ngā tau roa

I ngaro atu ai te aroha

E ngau kino nei i ahau auē taukuri ē


The great pain we feel

Is for you who were our future

Come back return home

We have waited for you                                                          

Through the long years you were away

Sorrow aches within me


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