Black and White

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

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

 

Every night and every night – Day 30

A little late again, and I am still missing one day’s poem, but nearly done and, whether the poems are good in their raw state or not, I have seen that I can be drawn into writing in the old way, and I have had a chance to read others’ poetry and learn from it.

Our prompt was to write about something that happens again and again, and this poem is another in the collection I am building about my brother and MS. I am still not sure about using him as the subject of poems, but part of me wants to commemorate him in some way.  It is like that line at the end of Death of a Salesman, “he’s a human being and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid.”

At shortly before eleven
his sister will come.
She will watch him take his pills
and she will offer him food
and tell him he must eat it
or the pills will make him sick.

He doesn’t want to eat it.
because, if he eats, he will
have to void his bowels which means
mess, stink, filth – embarrassment.

Sometime later, others come.
They check his meds and offer
him food which he does not want
to eat, as, if he eats,  he’ll
have to void his bowels which means
mess, stink, filth and helplessness..

Every night and every night
lying staring at the light,
begging Death come take his soul.

And in the morning
his sister will come
to watch him take the pills
which cannot cure him;
she offers him food
and tells him to eat;
he doesn’t want to.
Because, if he eats…

And the others come.
They offer him food
he doesn’t want to eat
because ….

Night after night
stares at the light,
petitioning Death.

And in the morning
his sister comes

 

Vast – Day 29

Nearly there. Only one more day to go. The prompt today was to choose a favourite poem and then take one word from it, and use that word to spark  a new poem.

My poem was Ozymandias, by Shelley – it says something about the brevity of the rule of tyrants, the arrogant and the vain, but also conjures for me a huge immensity of nothing – the tyrant’s statue is just a couple of legs now, and the head, half buried on the sand.

My word was “vast”. I tried for a sonnet, but it’s not right. I will rethink at some other time.

Our orbits were light years apart in space
the cosmic gap between our hearts was vast,
yet I rush to you at a reckless pace,
my modesty all gone, the die is cast.
You may not want to choose this Argosy?
Get over it.  We will collide, fly high,
merge, two galaxies, for eternity
leave far-flung, starry tendrils in the sky.
I Andromeda, you the Milky Way,
our constituent parts an open chain
spread across the heavens like petals
over the grass after hard April rain.
Our haloes of dark matter discarded,
we will be wrapped in a glory of stars.

Goodbye, dear – Day 28

Skeltonic Verse today. Two beats/stresses to a line, which makes it dimeter, and you rhyme away until you run out of words, or sensible phrases. Here’s mine:

 

Well, my dear,
it’s very clear.
I overhear
you’re only here
to point and jeer.

Never fear –
you’ll disappear,
my buccaneer.
I am sincere,
and, loud and clear,
I volunteer
to kick your rear
away from here
to stratosphere.

That feel severe?
I’ll shed one tear
as souvenir.

 

Synaesthesia – Day 27

A poem about taste. My sense of taste is not that good; I am prone to eating tubs of peanut butter, marmite on toast or whole jars of pickled onions (none great for making or keeping friends) but I wondered what I would think of others if saying their names triggered a taste, which is what sometimes happens when a person has synaesthesia :

The men I’ve known all left
a taste behind them –
sweet or sour or bitter.
I favour the name Steve –
it tastes of ginger biscuits.
John tasted of caramel, he
was a sweet snack to nibble on.
Shaun was distinctly fishy.
Paul was chicken vindaloo,
packing quite a wallop.

I liked the look of Robert,
but to say his name was like
sucking on a rusty nail –
until I shortened him to Bob
when he turned tasty
a flavour to savour:
egg fu yung –
chicken breast –
lemon zest –
and the rest.
I shall keep his name ever
on the tip of my tongue.

Testimonial – Day 25

Today (or yesterday, since I have fallen slightly behind) the subject of the day’s poem was to be any space, as long as it is small, definite, and meaningful to me.

The space is a space inside a green leather wallet, stamped on the outside with the insignia of the Royal Marines, and the Corps motto : Per Mare, per Terram –  By Sea and By Land. It is where my brother keeps his testimonial from his time in the Corps, and it is meaningful, because it is what he prizes most, even though his time in the military was many years ago.

This poem will be part of the colleciton of poems I am writing about my brother. It is hard to write about him, because I worry that using him as a subject is not wholly moral. I have shown him some poems though, and he was pleased with them, so….

 

Pressed flat inside green leather,
the stained, worn piece of paper
which he shows to all his carers.
Testimonial that, once, he was a man.
He gained operational experience
in the Falklands campaign.
He was nineteen, sent a letter home
from the Invincible to ask for suntan oil.
He was a polite, reasonable man,
worked well without supervision;
demonstrated some potential as a leader.
He maintained an outstanding level
of fitness and was a serious contender
in national standard triathlons
which requires dedication, sacrifice.
The veteran keeps the wallet
close to the bed, ready to produce
to testify that, before this horror hit,
he was a man.  Unfortunately,
he did not last the distance, decided to
leave the corps before he had
realised his full potential. Now,
he is slowly leaving his body behind,
without fully realising

His pleasant, amiable approach will
be missed.

 

Mappa Mundi – Day 24

Ekphrasis – poetry about a work of art, but in this case, very specifically about the marginalia of mediaeval manuscripts. The fantastical creatures doodled in the margins and at the bottom of pages by monks who may have been bored, or may have wanted to keep the readers interested, or who simply could not help themselves.  This prompt took me to the Mappa Mundi, which is not a manuscript, but which contains fantastical creatures, but also human beings doing monstrous things.

Here lies a bridge between belief and certainty.
Around the bridge, that graceful arch,
stretches fantastical and strange terrain.

Who drew this map – this world
of savage gods and monsters?

Maybe a man who, rigid in his daily prayer,
shut up in that fastness on the hill,
spent his days in terra incognita living
a life of imagination, terror and discovery,

Certainty took him from cloister to chapel;
imagination took him everywhere.
Here, the Sciapoi – each holds his leg aloft,
its giant foot a shield from heat of noon;
the Blemmyes with no heads: they speak
like lawyers – through their bellies;
the Troglodytes, cave dwellers, snake eaters,
maybe artists too, of hunt and Auroch and
strange people with the skulls of birds;
Cynocephali with the heads of dogs.
He drew such monsters, their misshapen dignity,
such beautiful deformity – awash with magic.

He knew that monsters do exist,
too few in number to be truly dangerous.
More dangerous, the monsters who believe
and hate and act without asking questions –
who cannot imagine what might be,
who travel at night, without a guide.