I am still vibrating in a very high register about what happened in Kensington last week, and to try and mute it, I have worked on words to push it far enough away that I can digest it without being sick. Reading about the disaster I remember from being a little girl made me sicker for a while, and then I started to see that things are NOT the same. That maybe, just maybe, social media and the fact that the fire happened in the heart of our capital and not in Wales, might mean that the response is more human this time around.
Engels pointed out that the English ruling classes murder their poorer brothers and sisters, and that hasn’t changed. Maybe it will change soon. I hope so.
We got our television late –
Granada Rentals, black and white.
We gazed on heaped black rubble
piled deep beneath the sleeting rain,
on screen, a school lay drowned in slag and rock
and slate, white staring faces taut with pain,
a silent village and its children gone.
The men in charge avoided blame;
they had not known the stream
was there, the thin blue thread
on map efficiently ignored.
They offered fifty pounds a head.
Lord Robens kept his job, the cash
kind people all around the world
had sent to parents brutally bereaved
was used for diggers to shift the slag
the coal board had let slip.
At highest level shameful things
were said behind closed doors:
that grieving mothers could have
more children, after all;
they were unused to money;
would squander and waste it,
not knowing how to spend it well.
People who had lost so much
ignored by men who’d wanted cash
to pay their annual bonus, clinging onto rank,
who saw their choice as black and white,
and chose that which would keep them tight
tucked snugly in with wealth and power.
Last week I watched a tower block burn,
a beacon blazing in the black night sky.
Scarlet fire, a funeral pyre, voices cracking in despair,
and children – could they be children –
falling like cinders, clutching at air?
Last night, I dreamed I watched it on
our rented set, its aerial bent
Black heap, white faces taut with pain.
Families who had lost so much,
ignored by men and women saving cash
but raking in profits for their private stash.
Who fake their tears and still shake hands
behind the padlocked doors of power,
who see the choice as black and white
and plump for profit every time,
in spite of desperate screams for help,
the death toll as it rises.
Fifty long years on,
the children in that buried school might
have had children of their own by now
to ask how many need to die before
the high and mighty do what’s right