The children nearby came to our secret garden,

Gazed at our mansion in disbelief,

Either said they wished they lived here

Or that this was the den of the thief.

But it was our Narnia of food fights at midnight,

Wet flannel battles in the halls,

Fire extinguishers that lose their heads.

We had nothing to lose – nothing at all.



But the rattle of rules and keys

Broke the magic – we all knew it couldn’t last.

The alarm bells rand and rang and rang

In Emergency Break The Glass

And it’s no fun anymore here.

The keys in the cupboards, slamming security doors,

Each child slowly retracts inside their self,

Whispering, ‘What am I being punished for?’



We’d been given booby-trapped time bombs,

Trigger wires hidden, strapped on the inside.

It became a place of controlled explosions,

Self-mutilation, screams and suicide,

Of young people returned, return to sender.

Half-light dorms of midnight moans –

We might well have all been children

But this was never a children’s home.
— Lemn Sissay, 1999