P4W (Prison fo Women)

tears tattooed on her once pretty face... a broken heart worn on her sleeve

she's a prisoner of her sex and race... she sees no reason to believe

that she will ever leave this place; or that things will ever change

the ceaseless grieving and disgrace... she gets more and more unhinged

she slashes at her wrist, and shakes the bleeding fist

through the bars at the sky... on the far side of the glass

where freer women pass... days and nights that are their own

and their thoughts are far between and few

their sisters here, in P4W.

...

ah, you should have seen her then... before he strapped on this mask

she used t believe in men... and all they had to do was ask

it was all good times and fast cars... and she knew how to find them

she grew up in the bars... and now she lives behind them.

...

tears tattooed on her once pretty face... she's got that cold and glassy stare

there's friends and lovers in this place... they're the only ones that care

she's got a daughter running wild, somewhere... she's got more hard time to do

times it seems it's too much to bear... comin' across in P4W.

...

tears tattooed on her once pretty face... a broken heart worn on her sleeve

she's a prisoner of her sex and race... and sees no reason to believe

that she will live to leave this place... or that things could ever change

the ceaseless grieving and disgrace... she gets more and more unhinged

she slashes at her wrist... and shakes the bleeding fist...

through the bars at the sky... on the far side of the glass

where freer women pass... days and nights that are their own...

and their thoughts are far between and few...

of their sisters here in P4W...

   ...well... I played a little joint in Kingston called The Vaults years ago, and was billeted in a student residence room at the university that overlooked the infamous Prison for Women (P4W). The room belonged to some 'valley' (Ottawa Valley) farm boy who had it decked out in many (even solar powered) 'Smurfs'... those little blue gnomes that were popular (with children) at the time, (at least 37 years ago, now) and they were everywhere, I kid you not And out the window was the grey limestone edifice of P4W. Not too long after that, I chanced upon a CBC TV documentary that was the first ever 'look' inside those walls. The image of one First Nations woman's face burned itself into my mind, and the words began to flow (may more verses than the recorded version transcribed above). I do not pretend to know anything of her history, or to be particularly well versed in the politics of incarceration (other than to be well aware of the disproportionate number of First Nations inmates coast to coast to coast in our 'correctional' system). It just grabbed me deep down, and this song resulted from that one viewing of a well done documentary and my fleeting images from that strange little room above the grim reality of those walls. Sometimes the songs just come like that; and what's a fellow to do other than t write them down? Not intended for commercial 'success' or even release; it seemed to fit in with the other tracks on 'Lone Gunman at the Assassin's Hotel'. I think I've sold one copy of this recording (a three for the price of one deal to a fellow who was interested in learning my song 'Asylum' a the Greenbank Folk Club back in October 2019). I have given and mailed many to folks I thought might be interested in hearing what I'm up to these days, in my 'retirement'. 

    I don't claim to have any great insight or connection to 'First Nations Issues' in this country, but I am; as best I can be, a 'Proud Canadian'. I'm just not as proud of our lame attempts at 'Reconciliation'. It s high time we take an honest look at just who we claim to be as Canadians. P4W no longer exists as a penal institution, but one can't help but wonder just what has really changed. 

 

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