This poem just happened. i have been so angry about this, the senselessness of it & the cruel irony that some of these people immigrated to England for a better, safer & more secure life & then this happened to them, when a few basic requirements would have averted the tragedy. This is what greed does. This is the bare face of it.
Perhaps, at that time, around midnight,
a Jamaican woman, preparing her family’s
lunches for school the next day after a late shift;
English pensioners listening to radios, watching the tele;
a West Indian chap listening to music;
a Syrian lad trying to Skype his friend
or brother still trapped in Aleppo;
a Muslim reading the Koran, a Hindu reading the Vedas;
a Bangladeshi father studying his bills
while his wife finishes off ironing & yawns;
teenagers messaging friends on Facebook
or posting pictures on Instagram
when they should be sleeping;
or somebody painting, writing or reading
— for most, the crumbs of the day,
coalescing into the uneasiness of dreams
the anxieties & worries of poverty.
120 homes, full of memories, a few possessions,
full of the chatter of families, the thrum of life,
full of the comforts of each other, stock phrases
from that time & of better times yet to come
simple but direct language
—life taken, as it should be, for granted,
so much of each other putting distance
between them & any consideration of death,
waiting around the blind corners of chaos.
How infuriating: a little extra purchase, a few quid
& this would have been a minor hiccup
for just a handful, or maybe a single person;
maybe a lick of paint, a bit of a fix up,
a bandage, a bit of ointment for a burn or cut,
a brief visit from the fire brigade, or just
the sprinklers to douse the flames &, done.
Forgotten as quick as it came, an anecdote
to tell the neighbours, something to forget.
Not, the realization something is wrong,
the incoherent noise of panic, feeling heat rise
as the floors below caught fire, the sense
that something is wrong, but not knowing
as you cannot see it coming, all the while
the flames catching the incendiary materials
like a Chinese whisper— it was too late
once the outside had spread up the cladding,
the heavy amalgam of unknown scents,
the fear of the unknown, so many new
confrontations in so short a span of time;
for some, it brought piecemeal, jittery
flashbacks of a past escaped from, done with,
back home in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea,
Somalia & the cruel irony of that escape
come to haunt, just as the fire began
engulfing the windows, the fire exits,
any hope, all packed with flames without
regard for the material blocking its path
the hell of Holy Books ripping habits apart.
Giving yourself up to prayer, in desperate moments,
where there is no longer choice, but only
the inevitability of what is to happen to you.
i hope despite all your prayers,
you never became discouraged, that you
continued to believe, God would see
you through the ordeal in some way;
that your inability to understand the terror
& silence became the reason everything was illuminated.
Did you think or became thankful for the life you had,
could you keep it together for the sake of others?
It’s ok if you didn’t, you’re only human.
A death so complete, it is scored in the mind
as a total absence: no body to mourn over,
nothing to fill a grave or urn, nothing to shroud
& weep over, nothing to remember a loved
one by, no item, nothing.
Just Grenfell as monument, ineradicable
like your memory & love for the dead.
But how brave to trust your child
to the capabilities of a stranger, how brave
for stroking the forehead of your child
& telling them everything is going to be alright,
hushing them to calm, as the fire took control
of your right to pick another narrative;
how brave of you to knock on doors, to raise
the alarm, though the fire spread with such ferocity,
to wait until the last possible moment;
how brave to walk into that oven of teeth
& fight it, square on, to salvage, any life;
how brave of you all to endure & try & stick
by each other though culture diversifies you.
Grenfall, i never visited you, i don’t
know you, i only learned of you when
you suffered; so i cannot take responsibility
for this poem, it is yours, you wrote it
& it may not do or be much, but when systems fail
us & we only have our influence to see & love,
we must realize that strength & explore it,
even though a minor poem, it is a recognition,
for words are what separate us from the animals,
they are in tandem with love, our means
to express sincerity, our sorrow & anger, to rebel
against those that seek to take from us
& use us to their profit, words help us destroy that.
This is all i have to offer
& nothing will ever be enough.