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,
of 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

First published on 10th July 2012

(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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