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*If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.*
A Nigerian summons me to London from the sea.
A Palestinian gives me directions from the south bank of the
As I hesitate at the head of a plummeting escalator
two sharp-suited businessmen turn to help me
descend into the Underground.
It’s rush hour and the carriages are crammed.
Boarding the train, I shrug off my back pack,
tuck it with the crutches close to my body,
and grab the overhead rail, realising too late
all this is difficult, strains my weak arm;
as the force of the train rocks through me,
an Irishman asks if I need help.
‘I’m okay’, I say, and lurch against the door.
Quietly, in a gesture that reminds me
of the formal way South Koreans offer money,
he grips my elbow, holds my arm
between Waterloo and Westminster —
to keep him upright, he laughs
before he hops off
and I take his place by the plexiglass partition
with its yellow vertical grab-rail.
‘Will someone give this lady a seat?’
a man asks. Not a single person looks up.
Only one of my fellow passengers is asleep.
‘Charming,’ I murmur. The man repeats his question
and a woman stands, without a word or a glance.
I sit. I have taken her seat,
her prized rush hour seat,
but I needed to sit.
I felt unsafe on my feet.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.
At Baker St Station it strikes me
that heeding the call of the poet
wasn’t, perhaps, such a great idea.
As I teeter down a flight of stairs
a train arrives at the platform below me,
and disgorges a sea of people,
a flood of people rising toward me,
filling the stairwell, shoulder to shoulder.
one solid mass, an interminable force
I can’t thread my way through or bypass.
Neither can I turn around and go back.
I have to wait on the step
as people push past me,
and though my mind knows
that this muscular wave will soon pass,
I feel guilty for waiting.
For taking up space. For taking up time.
I feel stupid for thinking I could cross London on crutches.
I feel I shouldn’t have come.
I am no Biblical cripple.
I am not journeying to meet Christ.
I don’t need to be another Grenfell gawker.
I need step-free access
to a train home to Brighton.
But just as I realise
how foolish I’ve been, I see
that a small miracle is occurring:
people have noticed me,
are pressing closer together,
and a path has appeared
a narrow, shining hemline
along the edge of the stairs:
an invitation to continue.
Hugging the wall, I step
on down to the platform
as the physiotherapist taught me:
‘Good foot to heaven,
bad foot to hell.’
On the Circle line, a petite Black woman
smiles, jumps up, insists I sit,
and tells me about her corrected fourth toe.
She disembarks at Royal Oak,
and a couple from Colorado get on,
the woman curious about how long I have to go . . .
and before I know it, the train isn’t underground anymore,
we are rushing over grey streets and grey parks
and council estates, beneath a dull white sky,
and then we are there, at Latimer Road,
and before the train has even pulled into the station
it is there too. Right there,
through the window, watching us
with its hundreds of burned-out eyes.
Watching us go on with our lives.
Watching us speed through its shadow,
or stop and alight and enter its radius . . .
to go to work in a crime scene,
to come home to a war zone
or to make an unsteady pilgrimage
to a place we would normally zoom past.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.
They greet me at the turnstiles.
Their faces are everywhere.
From walls, church railings, shop windows, telephone kiosks,
above the stiff queues of flowers,
the perfume of stargazers and rot,
their beauty radiates; an intolerable heat.
The honey-skinned mother and her five year-old daughter.
The Muslim couple and their baby.
The two young Italians.
A curly-haired girl, on the cusp of her womanhood,
Women in bright sweaters, bold prints, smiles and hijabs,
older men clad in dignified solitude.
Steven, also known as Steve.
Mohammed from Syria . . . please sign the petition.
Poster after poster, please call . . .
If you see . . .
And behind the telephone kiosk,
that plastered pillar of love,
with its poems and prayer calls
and white paper butterflies,
behind the viaduct
with its incessant trains,
behind the vinyl banner
on the brick-clad new build –
Secure Everyone’s Safety’:
I have hobbled here
to stare at
as if nothing else exists.
I will never forget.
For there is nothing blacker
than the windows
of Grenfell Tower
Not the niqab of the young woman
at the traffic lights
whose dark darting eyes
are the essence of light,
not the black plastic boot
that protects my shattered ankle,
not the black shell of my laptop
on which I’m writing this poem,
or the fascia of my BlackBerry phone
with which I took grainy photos
of the burned out windows
of Grenfell Tower,
photos that fail
to show those windows
as they are:
blackness as void.
The unfathomable blackness
we come from and return to.
Cordoned off by red and white ribbons
Guarded from gawpers
by police in florescent jackets,
but impossible to cover up,
impossible to hide,
yet impossible to approach,
until a man strides by me,
stops up ahead on the pavement
and raises his arms.
Pale, grey-haired, in a grey shirt,
his arms lifted to the Tower
in an open-palmed V
he appears to be praying.
mourning, giving healing,
sending love to Grenfell Tower,
communing with the spirits,
he tells me,
of his neighbours
who went to school with his children,
who didn’t want to leave this way
whose agony lodges in his throat,
whose vanished beauty shines from his eyes.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower
Yes, Grenfell Tower is a mass grave,
a mausoleum, a crematorium.
It commands our silence.
But go and see it.
Go and see Britain’s black omphalos,
the navel of our failure
to take care of each other.
Go and see London’s real Olympic Torch
our charred trophy of arrogance, greed and contempt,
a monument to everything this country’s leaders do best:
scoffing at basic safety procedures,
ignoring experts’ advice,
flouting regulations, cutting corners
for the sake of padding bank accounts,
promising improvements, delivering death traps,
telling critics to ‘get stuffed’,
never consulting, never respecting
the people they are paid to represent:
people deemed a nuisance and an eyesore,
a blight on property values,
a threat to ‘social order’,
whose lives are not worth the paper
their missing posters are printed on,
whose inevitable incineration
has been planned, approved and fully costed,
whose grief and rage and anguish
must be micromanaged
with a drip feed of numbers,
a narrowing of remits,
a stealthy adjournment of truth.
But the truth cannot be hidden,
the truth is there for all to see.
Yes, go see Grenfell Tower.
Go by tube, bus, car, taxi, bicycle,
wheelchair, skateboard, roller blades,
tap the pavement with white canes, with crutches.
Go and see it. Take flowers, food and clothes.
Leave a message at St Clements.
Go and see Kensington’s anti-Kaaba,
its site of sacred devastation
rising in every direction we face.
And if you cannot go,
wherever you may be, however frail or far,
let us all, in our hearts,
stand with the disappeared,
and stand with the survivors,
let us stand with the uncounted, the discounted,
at the top of the stairs
on the twenty-fourth floor,
let us demand those responsible
for this preventable inferno
stop their frantic climbing
over Grenfell’s broken bodies,
through Grenfell’s tower of ashes,
over stacks of contracts, legal documents,
to a safety and freedom
they do not deserve.
And as the faces of the missing fade
into the black flames of memory,
by the candles of our witness
let us light
a clear broad path
to justice on the street.
With its hundreds of burnt out eyes,
from its unfathomable void,
Grenfell Tower is watching us.
We cannot fail again.
Aos 48 anos, Waldir Azevedo sofreu um acidente com um cortador de grama. Em razão disso, perdeu seu dedo anular, e foi forçado a ficar sem tocar por um ano e meio. Após cirurgias e fisioterapia, recuperou-se e voltou a gravar. Compôs, então, Minhas mãos, meu cavaquinho, com um trecho da Ave Maria de Gounod.
At 48, Waldir Azevedo ha an accident with a motor mower. In consequence, he had his ring finger amputated, and was unable to play for one year and a half. After some surgeries and physiotherapy sessions, he recovered the movement of his finger and went back to playing. He created, then, Minhas mãos, meu cavaquinho (My Hands, My Ukelele), with an excerpt of Gounod’s Ave Maria
6 women. 6 men. Zero dance experience, but 800 years of life experience. The result? A fabulously entertaining new show: http://goo.gl/BdLWyU
Dica de Rosana Bptistella
‘Green knows how to create atmosphere and mood born of genuine conviction. Slip Stream is lovely, weird and warm.’ – Hamesh Wyatt, Otago Daily Times
‘Slip Stream is an account of a time when Paula Green was buffeted in the slipstream of an illness. How can life go on as usual? she asks – and finds answers in poetry and music, crosswords and cherries, lists and family love.’
Source: Books | NZ Poetry Shelf