Barbara Roads, by Natalie Scott

Guilty of conscientious objection
– sentenced to one month, 1943

You ask me why I choose
to do this, choose
to refuse my war duties
by not signing up with the warden,
choose to challenge the system,
choose to be pregnant in prison?

You think it’s easy enough
to sign up for something
you don’t believe in
just because it’s the done thing.
Scratch you name on
someone else’s skin.

Do these women choose
to be pregnant in prison?
Choose to eat for two
on extra milk and bread?
Choose solitary confinement
until the baby’s due
because the hospital’s full?
Choose a cell bell that’s dull
or no one’s there to hear it,
or no one who hears it cares
enough, and no one comes?
Choose to give birth alone?
Does any woman choose that?
Can’t you see she was at the
crippled ends of her wits?

I choose to refuse because
they asked me to do it.
And you can only refuse
what you are asked to do.
Ask me to join the army
and I’ll refuse that too.

Prison is a choice for me.
I can handle a month and make
my point. In utero, my baby
won’t know anything. No harm
done. Being behind bars
is a chance for freedom.
Choosing to refuse
wins choice. Choice
for a future
where you
can say no and not
be sent to prison.

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