Nick Moss (British Working Class Poetry)

Nick Moss is an ex-prisoner working in the arts. While in jail he won a Koestler prize for his poetry chapbook, the Skeleton Choir Singing. He was subsequently awarded a May Turnbull scholarship. In 2021 he published  Swear Down , a volume of poetry published by Smokestack Books. He has published in Statewatch, Radical Philosophy, KD Outsider Arts Magma, Proletarian Poetry, Smoke, the New River Press Yearbook, Poets For Grenfell, Koestler Voices, Willesden Junction Poets in Residence. He has 4 plays in development. He writes and reviews for Culture Matters.


Yamato (for Kenny Baker)


Woodhatch, Surrey, November 1990

In the photographs released to the press

you can see the blood stains and the bullet holes

in the ballistic vests abandoned  in the road


Operation Yamato, PT17 called it.

They say all their operational names

are selected randomly,

so it must be just a coincidence that

they picked the name of a Japanese battleship

targeted by US Avenger Torpedo bombers

in  1945, during the battle of the East China Sea.


Coincidence, in that the Yamato was still targeted

while its crew were trying to evacuate,

and in 1990 Kenny Baker was killed,

shot in the stomach and the face.

And though the Met say they gave a warning,

no-one heard it.


According to the Met ,

“it is only rarely that police use firearms , more usually relying on speed and surprise.”

Which would be a surprise to

Kenny Baker

and to

David Ewin, Tony Ash, James Brady James Ashley, Harry Stanley, Nick Palmer, Robert Haines, Dennis Bergin, Micky Flynn, Mark Nunes, Nicky Payne, Jimmy Farrell, Terry Dewsnap, Mark Duggan, Azelle Rodney ,Marc Ringland , Anthony Grainger , Jermaine Baker, Yassar Yaqqub, Sean Fitzgerald,

and Chris Kaba.

were any of them

here to listen.

The list’s incomplete

and lacking in poesy.

As is state murder


Kenny Baker- killed by armed police, November 1990

PT17-Metropolitan Police firearms unit

Met – Metropolitan Police




Paulie was the quiet lad on the wing. He was short, about five foot two, always a little over-polite when he spoke . At first, I thought it was because he knew if it went off, he was so physically unprepossessing, he’d always get mashed up. Maybe he was afraid of being bullied, he’d try to avoid lookin you in the eye, would look down to the side, just shrink himself away slightly, small as he was already.  After a while, he started to engage a little. If I was leaning on the landing rail, he’d come and talk , always that exaggerated politeness, almost to the point of caricature. He only listened to Classic FM, always asked if the music was too loud, and I always had to tell him  I couldn’t hear a thing, and don’t xin worry anyway. Eventually, he told me he was on an IPP with a minimum ten year tariff for a series of street robberies, carried out way back  when he was someone else. He’d been knocked back twice and he was 24/7 shitting himself that if he got into any kind of argument or confrontation he’d just get knocked back again. He’d more or less given up on the possibility of getting out, and of any chance of a self-determined  life. He’d always live overshadowed by the chance of recall. Once he got handed a date for his next Board, he just xin fell apart. First he started cuttin; you’d catch a glimpse sometimes-arms all hacked up, traces of blood round his sink. He opened a wound in his leg and rammed a battery from the radio into it, so that it wouldn’t close over and heal up.  Next it was the spice, and he’d walk zombied round the wing, or line up for food then drop his plate and lurch over as he tried to go back up the stairs. The day before the Board he barricaded his cell. We thought he’d was goin to string up, but when the screws  forced their way in, they found him curled up by the central heating pipe. He’d nodded out, and his arm had fallen against the pipe . The pipe was so hot his skin had fused onto it. Never saw him after that. Someone told me he’d lost the arm. Whether that’s true or not I’ve no idea. If he made it through the gate I  guess I’d have heard .

David Blunkett was the Home Secretary who introduced indeterminate sentences “for public protection” , with  section 225 of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act. There is no limit to how long prisoners can be detained under IPPs. The sentence was abolished in 2012. As of June 2023 2,909 IPP prisoners remained in custody. of whom more than half had been held for at least 10 years post- tariff. Blunkett has  acknowledged his government’s failure and his own ‘culpability’ and purports that the intention was that there would be support for prisoners to fund rehabilitation. He has also admitted that the government "had not fully agreed with the Treasury" resources for those who needed rehabilitation. As of 2016 there were 550 incidents of self-harm for every 1,000 prisoners serving an IPP sentence . In 2023, Alice Jill Edwards, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, criticized IPP sentences for the psychological harm they inflict, saying, "The resulting distress, depression and anxiety are severe for prisoners and their families."                                

The despair is not an incidental consequence, like an accidental overdose.

The despair is the point.





Let’s stroll through old Westminster,

Through its diamond-dust of lies, and cockayne traces,

Its candescent gaslight heritage

Smith Square's austere luminosity

Such a pretty glow, such a pretty view

Brighter than all those tired old stars.


There was a lad on our wing who was doing an indeterminate sentence for arson. He used to sit in his room-usually in a  hostel ,one time a bedsit- and he’d set fire to the curtains and just watch the flames until, his fingers crossed, (or maybe not) the fire brigade turned up , rescued him, and put the fire out. Three times he’d been done for setting fires. This-time he'd been IPP'd -a mother and kid in the next hostel room were given “life changing injuries” because the fire had spread through to them. He just liked to watch things burn. Loved the fact that you could start something, then it would blaze up and no longer be yours to control. That just staring at a fire doesn't stop the flames. Was on the wing about 2 weeks before he set fire to the black binbag full of case papers in his cell. He didn't scream. Just sat there. Watching the fire catch. Passively entranced. Looked like a slug that had crawled through a river of salt by the time they dragged him out.

 “A green industrial revolution, that is already creating millions of high wage high skill jobs in power and technology” (1)


“Let us do enough to save our planet and our way of life and as we work let us think about those billions of beady eyes that are watching us around the world” (2)


“So without being unduly rhapsodical, when you’re my age, you young folks, you young thrusters out there, you’ll inhabit not a world on fire, but a planet where your phones and your computers and your lights are powered by the wind and the water, the waves and the sun; you’ll inhabit a world where electric cars glide silently down your streets from California to Cape Town; emission-free, guilt-free jet zero planes will fly overhead; and all of us will be able to deal with whatever the climate throws at us.”(3)



That means we need to have more energy, so we are investing more in renewable energy like offshore wind, building new nuclear power stations, but also making sure that we get more energy here at home from the North Sea, more oil and gas, which we are going to need for the next few decades as we transition to a cleaner future, so we are investing in that too. (4)


1.Boris Johnson address at COP26 World Leaders Summit Opening Ceremony


3.Boris Johnson address at the Youth4Climate conference: 30 September 2021

4. Rishi Sunak PM remarks at PM Connect: 22 June 2023

No comments :

Post a Comment

We welcome your comments related to the article and the topic being discussed. We expect the comments to be courteous, and respectful of the author and other commenters. Setu reserves the right to moderate, remove or reject comments that contain foul language, insult, hatred, personal information or indicate bad intention. The views expressed in comments reflect those of the commenter, not the official views of the Setu editorial board. प्रकाशित रचना से सम्बंधित शालीन सम्वाद का स्वागत है।