All White Then Black

(for the fifty-two who lost their lives on 7th July 2005 and for many more than seven hundred, who live on with their scars)

He took a seat and let the blond girl stand,
and thought about his selfishness, but then
he cast aside his worries for a while.
It seems these days that chivalry requires
that men do other things to prove there worth
sitting whilst she stood was no big deal

…until it went all black and white.

Arriving at the platform just in time
she blessed her luck as, late for work, she knew
this was an omen for the day and augured
well. In tune, her vigorous health enhanced
by brand new trainers bought the day before
and which were such good fit and comfortable

…until it went all black and white.

A City Engineer from Derbyshire
who’d built a walk that clung a cliff-side way
was visiting the city on that day;
a day that saw him on a crowded train,
when he would rather stand and walk about
than stare at someone else’s shirt hang out!

…until it went all black and white.

A software engineer, who had a squint,
would be the one without a single thought
against, or for the men who’d wrung the night
from day that left him still and motionless.
He was just numb, devoid of any feeling;
defied the normal human call to blame,

until it went all white, then black…

A blinding flash of incandescent light
so rapidly reduced the day to night
and left them all completely without sight
of anything but stench of soot and blood
no screams, just moaning and a plaintive cry
for help..

please help,

please help,

please help,

please help.

Trembling in the court, his stoney face
belied the trauma and the weight of guilt
that he’d survived and she had not. But then
her brother laid a hand upon his shoulder
“she was full of fun and wanted friends
like you, to carry all her joy through life.”

Vivaciously recounting her experience;
how she was looking up at her new trainer
on the ceiling… that it seemed quite strange
to her, who at the time was lain. Then she,
as they unwrapped her leg from round the handrail,
released a scream that drew her rescuer’s blood.

A fellow passenger closed the lids
of eyes that could no longer see the world,
in which he could not take a further part,
to dignify, in his truncated end.
Alone, that one gesture made a lifetime’s stress
seem like a moment’s insignificance.

The squint came from a shin-splint in his eye,
like shattered lives that shattered bones release
a hell, for which no-one can be prepared.
And where the bomber’s other parts did go,
only forensic analysis will know.
For those who live, the memory lives on.

The painful wait, amid an infinite darkness
Everything was black and white, only
the blood was vivid red. Random limbs
were strewn, and resting on projecting bone
he’d tried to comfort one who needed help.
The girl who sat behind the bomber survived…

…and who wonders with astonishment
at the human body’s resilience
under such extraordinary shock
that blasted minds beyond their comfort zone
and made so many individuals,
in one small shocking instant…

…become just one.

© 2012 John Anstie

(Read the background to this poem at ‘Forty Two‘)

(For interested poets: once again, I was drawn to write this poem in Blank Verse, Shakespeare’s favoured format for speeches. I think it is such a good way to tell a story and I especially dare think, perchance to dream, of any number of great Shakespearean actors reading it… I wish :-))

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About PoetJanstie

As a young man, John was fit and sporting. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines as Gordonstoun, giving shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. This fitness was enhanced by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, by selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family and pursuing a career, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a blogger and poet. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a forty-five year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three singing groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices; a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club) and a mixed barbershop quartet, Needle & Fred. He is also a would be (once upon a time) photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is autobiographical and very often pins his colours to the mast. In 2013, he completed an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of nine poets, who met on Twitter. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle.
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19 Responses to All White Then Black

  1. 1emeraldcity says:

    Don’t know how I missed this one, John…so tragic, powerfully written…left me sodden, really.

    Like

  2. Jamie Dedes says:

    Sad poem. Well done.

    Like

  3. phoenixrisesagain says:

    a tough one but so touching and haunting written ~ I had to go via Kings Cross to London many times just after it happened and I always remembered even though I have not been there that day…

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Bee, thanks for your comment, particularly the ‘touching and haunting..’. Yes it was close enough to home to remind us of the fact that none of us are excluded from the risk of such acts impacting our own lives, without notice!

      Like

      • phoenixrisesagain says:

        true it can happen anywhere any time ~ that is quite scary but I think it also teaches us that life goes on and that this is not a bad thing as long as we do remember!

        Like

  4. Claudia says:

    oh dang..that’s a tough story and hauntingly and real told……until it went all white, then black…the repetition works very well and what can we say in the face of such tragedies..

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thank you Claudia for your comment. What can be said in the face of such tragedies.. indeed, I think we learn to sympathise and understand the remaining lives of the surviving victims and the families of those who perished; we also inevitably face a chance to re-evaluate our own views on what is important in life, which is certainly what I take from 7/7, from 9/11 from Lockerbie and all events that are defined by inhuman acts.

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  5. brian miller says:

    dang man…it brings to mind any number of human tragedies and what it must be like in that moment…a unusal day suddenly splintered by an act so horrifying….so many lives changed in an instant…and did it have reason…and did it achieve it…or was it just another senseless death….vivid piece….

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    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thanks Brian. Did it achieve anything? Did 9/11 achieve anything (apart from the wrath of GWB’s and Tony Blair’s war-mongering, sabre rattling reactions). The irony is that those who pulled the strings on the bombs are dead and gone along with their fated victims, so who knows if they achieved their aims because they’re not alive to tell us that ..

      Like

  6. peterwilkin says:

    Incredibly powerful write, John, that leaves little or nothing to the imagination. Impossible to read it, I would guess, without feeling the pain to some degree.

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thanks bro. My poetry seems to be getting a bit heavy of late, but who knows where we are heading each time we pick up a pen? And it was finished amid the chaos of having builders in (at last) to do the bathroom, with all the noise, interruptions and dust that this entails. Bit strange really.

      Thanks for the comment, which I know is sincerely meant, which makes it all the more important to me.

      Like

  7. John, your plain yet beautiful words (and yes, I know you’ll say that the words are those from people caught in the attacks) have pulled me into this most horrific scene in a way that seems so very much aligned with what happened on the day – a day, like any other, filled with normal daydreams and thoughts, and then…

    That is the horror of bomb attack isn’t it? The unexpected interruption into lives that are used to living day to day not moment by moment. It certainly gives a entirely new meaning to the notion of ‘shock’. How can their minds comprehend standing beside someone in one moment, and lying beside a dead person the next? Unfathomable.

    You’ve chosen a perfect structure, I think, on which to place your words, with the repeat at the beginning and the slow reveal of the aftermath. White then black, white then black, then red.

    It has been a long time since a poem has affected me so. I shall be thinking about this for many days to come. Thank you for writing this and sharing it with us.

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      And thank YOU for your long, thoughtful and meaningful comment, Jo-Anne. Such a response is as much as any poet or writer could ever hope for. I would be thankful too if someone gave some constructive but negative feedback. Yours has been so positive that I am very very pleased that, for you at least, it has hit the mark and, more than that, even though there are words and descriptions in there that could probably only truly be understood by someone who saw the documentary, you have interpreted it as I intended it to be understood. Thank you.

      Like

  8. Emma says:

    Made me sigh. A sober reminder of that awful event. I found this moving, John.

    Like

  9. PPerry tends to wash over me like a soothing balm..until a piece comes along that rips the floorboards up…this is the piece..gave me goosebumps reading this one.j

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thank you very much, John. As I’ve already said elsewhere, I appreciate sincere comments that reveal my writings have moved a reader. Where were you at the time of all this, were you in London?

      Like

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