Black and White

Fifty long years on, the children in that buried school might have had children of their own by now …

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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

 

2 thoughts on “Black and White”

  1. This is beautiful, Lindy. I think poems like this, especially written so soon after the terrible events that inspired them, are often hard to do well, because emotions are still so high. But this is lovely – and I love how you’ve drawn the comparisons between Grenfell and the mining disaster (I remember reading about that recently, was it the anniversary? Utterly heartbreaking). Really enjoying checking in on your blog, and finding lots of lovely lines in the poems you post. Also, I totally forgot about TV rentals – I got a sudden really clear memory of going shopping with my Mum on Saturdays , and going to the TV shop to pay the rental fees. The shop was next door to McDonalds and she’d sometimes let me get a strawberry milkshake afterwards – I haven’t thought of that in years!

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  2. I remember the shop WE used. When it opened, Pat Phoenix came to cut the ribbon and I walked a mile on my own to get a signed publicity shot of her. Only you had to pay for them, and I had no money. The food my mother bought me when we had to go shopping in Manchester was an eccles cake. No wonder I was almost spherical by the time I was ten!
    Thanks for your comment, Cheryl – much appreciated.

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