“Our lives are brief, a mere fluttering in time. So open the door wide and let the light in!”
So we cut the roses for your grave and let them rest on the wet grass — your life was a golden thing, hope filled and hope given to so many! You will never leave us.
In the early afternoon of Thursday 16th June 2016, after leaving a meeting with her local constituents, the 41-year old British Labour politician Helen Joanne Cox, a married mother of two young children, was chased down the streets of Birstall, England by a man intent on killing her, a killer who was patiently lying in wait. The man subsequently stabbed her, then shot her, and left her to bleed to death in a car park behind the local library.
Murder of an activist
Dress it up whichever way you want,
but what it breaks down to
is the senseless murder
of a woman by a man.
Senseless the loss.
Senseless the pain.
The resort to violence.
The resort to hate.
And the mindless murder
of a defenseless mother.
Whichever way it breaks down,
it’s male violence again.
A tribute to Jo Cox, MP, radical activist, mother of two.
Born 22 June 1974 murdered 16th June 2016.
Jo Cox was murdered by a far right white nationalist. A male.
“It’s not about creating an equal country, but it is about stopping the development of an underclass cut off from the rest of society.”
“Every decade or so, the world is tested by a crisis so grave that it breaks the mould: one so horrific and inhumane that the response of politicians to it becomes emblematic of their generation — their moral leadership or cowardice, their resolution or incompetence. It is how history judges us.”
In 1942 Juliette Greco, who has died this week, wrote in her autobiography that she and her sister were arrested by the Gestapo when she was sixteen, as her mother was active in the Resistance.
She was held in a small cell with a light permanently on, the usual sleep deprivation, before interrogation. She later wrote of her Gestapo interrogator “I will never forgive him” — “I know that I myself will fight until the last day of my life, against oppression, against intellectual terrorism, indifference and the denial of the only treasure that is worth preserving at all costs: the right to live as we choose, to think, to laugh, to give, to change, to love without fear whatever and whoever we love.”
Juliette Gréco, singer and actor, born 7 February 1927; died 23 September 2020.
In these times more than any other it is crucial — mandatory that all people oppose the politics of hate, and those who use violence and fear to promote hate to destroy our freedoms. Freedoms that have been hard won by our forebears and should now be cherished and not let go of easily!
My entire professional career of 37 years involved working with men who were violent, abusive and above all hated themselves — transferring that hate onto others as some kind of vindication of their worth, but like all bullies they make themselves feel alright by making other peoples lives miserable and not alright. Women and children, the most vulnerable are their victims — which tells you everything you need to know about them.
In the most extreme cases these men end up killing others whether its Jo Cox, MP in Birstall England or Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia and so many black lives because they are African Americans living in America. If our political leaders espouse or are sympathetic to those who project violence and hate within our society — we only have one choice. Vote them out! And to paraphrase Juliet Greco “I know that I myself will fight until the last day of my life, against oppression, against intellectual terrorism, and indifference”.
Imagine fishermen labouring in a heavy swell pulling in the trawl to find silver bitter limp fruit entwined in the mesh of drip green nets, the dead eyed souls of their own young children. And we stay silent for our history is never told silenced from the hour, the days, and the years for we are edited out of the hours of our times.
Imagine coal miners hollowing out the seams, men stripping coal a mile and more underground and the hooters above ground call them away, brought up into blink white light to see the black tip the waste of their toils washed into the village, spewed over the school where small children, sang hymns and songs and were supposed to be safe. And we stay silent for our history is never told silenced from the hour, the days, and the years for we are edited out of the hour of our times.
Imagine the trail of letters written foretelling concerns, the dead nerved fears that a disaster would occur and the NCB replies not days, not months but years later. And on a grey fog filled October day after weeks of rain, a small children’s school and a day of devastation, exactly in the manner and the way foretold. And imagine if no one was held to account, and those families told make the slag heap safe from the proceeds raised for the disaster fund. And we stay silent for our history is never told silenced from the hour, the days, and the years for we are edited out of the hour of our times.
Imagine the miner, the father, the brother, the son, looking out at the sprawl of waste they’d dug. Imagine the mother, the sister, the daughter, looking out at the grey listlessness of another day. Of the silent keening, the numbed grieving, of the impossibility of using words to describe. And we stay silent for our history is never told, silenced from the hour, the days, and the years for we are edited out of the hour of our times.
Imagine the mothers bringing up children, the happiness and hopes for the future. Imagine the sisters who stayed off school. Imagine the brothers too slow and were late. Imagine the vacuum where a life had once been. Imagine a young life where a vacuum is now. And we have been silenced, our history just words our fututre is silent and will never be told. Silenced from the hour, silenced from all our days. Silenced from the years, silenced from all that might have been.
This poem will be published in The Atlanta Poetry Review Spring 2020 Edition.
Footnote: The Aberfan Tribunalfound that repeated warnings about the dangerous condition of the tip had been ignored, and that colliery engineers at all levels had concentrated only on conditions underground. In one passage, the Report noted:
“We found that many witnesses … had been oblivious of what lay before their eyes. It did not enter their consciousness. They were like moles being asked about the habits of birds.”
In the House of Commons debate on the Inquiry Report it was asserted by the Government, on the advice of the NCB and supported by comments in the Tribunal report, that the remaining tips above Aberfan were not dangerous and did not warrant removal, estimated by the Tribunal to cost £3m, but merely required landscaping — a much cheaper option.
No NCB staff were ever demoted, sacked or prosecuted as a consequence of the Aberfan disaster or of evidence given to the Inquiry.
The government made a grant of £200,000 to the NCB towards the cost of removing the tips, and under “intolerable pressure” from the government, the Trustees of the Disaster Fund agreed to contribute £150,000.
On 21 October, 1966 Tip No 7 which forms part of the main complex of tips at Aberfan slipped and descended upon part of the village killing 116 children and 29 adults.
The tragedy occurred just after nine o’clock in the morning under circumstances which apparently precluded the issue of warning. The presence of a mountain mist obscured the cascading torrent of slag so that, except for an ominous rumble, the villagers were unaware of the catastrophic fate which was about to overtake them. To make matters worse the roaring torrent burst the water main in the disused canal and several million gallons of water were released converting the slag into slurry or a muddy slime. Immediately in the path of the torrent was the junior school which was attended by pupils in the age range five to eleven years and classes had already begun. The school received the direct impact of the rolling mass and it was not long before the slurry found entry into the school through windows, doors and other apertures caused by the effect of the damage. Some account of what followed has been given by those who survived the disaster and it seems that, with the total unexpectedness of such an onslaught and the attendant delay in realising what was happening, there was naturally a time lag between the engulfing of the school and the attempts by those inside to escape or to take measures of safety.
Nearby was the senior school which was attended by pupils in the age range eleven to fifteen years. Little damage was done to this school where, in any case, it so happened that classes commenced later than those of the junior school. However, many of the senior school pupils were on their way to school when the avalanche of slurry descended, some of them were engulfed by the slurry and either trapped or injured by the floating debris which it had gathered up during its decent. Many houses were damaged or destroyed causing injury or death to their occupants and others who were in the vicinity.
The search for the injured and the dead continued for several days. Altogether 116 children died bereaving 99 families some which suffered multiple losses not only children but also of adults. In addition 28 adults were killed including the breadwinners of families and in cases persons who had assumed some measure of responsibility for certain of their relatives. Then there were the injured 29 children admitted to hospitals although many of these returned home within 24 hours, after receiving treatment, eight of them however suffered injuries which are likely to affect them the rest of their lives.
Tip no. 7, which was 500 feet above the village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, started to slide at 9.15 am. It was the last day before half-term at the Pantglas schools below. The valley was in low cloud, so that nobody saw the slide. Everybody heard it, but it was coming too fast to outrun. It first hit a farm, killing everybody in it. Then it engulfed Pantglas Junior School, killing 109 children and five teachers. Only a handful of the children aged between seven and ten survived. The tip comprised colliery waste, liquefied by the springs underneath. The liquefied flow slide of about 100,000 tons of slurry lost energy and solidified again after hitting the school and neighbouring houses. They were buried as completely as Pompeii. A total of 144 people died.
For 50 years up to 1966, millions of cubic metres of excavated mining debris from the National Coal Board’s Merthyr Vale Colliery were deposited on the side of Mynydd Merthyr, directly above the village of Aberfan. Huge piles, or “tips”, of loose rock and mining spoil had been built up over a layer of highly porous sandstone that contained numerous underground springs, and several tips had been built up directly over these springs. Although local authorities had raised specific concerns in 1963 about spoil being tipped on the mountain above the village primary school, these were largely ignored by the NCB’s area management.] Photographs, diagrams and an analysis of the 1966 flowslide, as well as locations of earlier slides at Aberfan are given in a paper by Prof. Alan Bishop.
“Aberfan Colliery spoil tramway in 1964. The spoil heaps are at top left and the school is the red brick building at mid left
Early on the morning of Friday, 21 October 1966, after several days of heavy rain, a subsidence of about 3–6 metres (10–20 ft) occurred on the upper flank of colliery waste tip №7. At 9.15 am more than 150,000 cubic metres (5,300,000 cu ft) of water-saturated debris broke away and flowed downhill at high speed. It was sunny on the mountain but still foggy in the village, with visibility only about fifty metres (160 ft). The tipping gang working on the mountain saw the landslide start but were unable to raise the alarm because their telephone cable had been repeatedly stolen — although the official inquiry into the disaster later established that the slip happened so fast that a telephone warning would not have saved any lives.
The front part of the mass became liquefied and moved down the slope at high speed as a series of viscous surges. 120,000 cubic metres (4,200,000 cu ft) of debris were deposited on the lower slopes of the mountain, but a mass of over 40,000 cubic metres (1,400,000 cu ft) of debris smashed into the village in a slurry 12 metres (39 ft) deep.
The slide destroyed a farm and twenty terraced houses along Moy Road and slammed into the northern side of the Pantglas Junior School and part of the separate senior school, demolishing most of the structures and filling the classrooms with thick mud and rubble up to 10 metres (33 ft) deep. Mud and water from the slide flooded many other houses in the vicinity, forcing many villagers to evacuate their homes.
The pupils of Pantglas Junior School had arrived only minutes earlier for the last day before the half-term holiday. The teachers had just begun to record the children’s attendance in the registers when a great noise was heard outside. They were in their classrooms when the landslide hit: the classrooms were on the side of the building nearest the landslide.
Nobody in the village was able to see it, but everyone could hear the roar of the approaching landslide. Some at the school thought it was a jet about to crash and one teacher ordered his class to hide under their desks. Gaynor Minett, then an eight-year-old at the school, later recalled:
It was a tremendous rumbling sound and all the school went dead. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone just froze in their seats. I just managed to get up and I reached the end of my desk when the sound got louder and nearer, until I could see the black out of the window. I can’t remember any more but I woke up to find that a horrible nightmare had just begun in front of my eyes.
After the landslide there was total silence. George Williams, who was trapped in the wreckage, remembered:
“In that silence you couldn’t hear a bird or a child.”
I count the species in the orchard hedge Maple, Blackthorn, Hawthorn and Hazel thrive Blackberry and Honeysuckle intertwine Elder pruned and cut hard to renew two Oaks, two tall Maples break the line a Red Admiral sits on a Buddleia leaf needing to find a place to hibernate. An idyllic scene a man laying a hedge the clear blue skies under an autumn sun but never far from my mind that other world Of war in Syria, the unrelenting brutality and the suffering of people in these times and of the silence of the people of my kind and of the silence, the discordany unravelling of the myth of the Wests superiority of the myth of the Wests democracy of the myth of the Wests morality.
Politicians assume the cloak of Pontius Pilate and wash their hands of responsibility.
This is a message from the borderlands an endless void a windswept land like all deserts stripped bare of features. So I whisper the message — If you could have heard all that I’ve heard. If you could see all that I’ve seen if you could have been there, far out there and if you could have listened to peoples words, listened to those broken hurting people and that place out there, in here, in me, in you. The dark frontier, that secret place you know I know, we know, we all know, but deny its existence.
But for me there is no choice. I cannot deny its imprint on my mind, my memory is not deaf or unfeeling, its not blind. But I wish sometimes that it might be so. Now what do I do with these memories, the words I do not wish to store, and hold like some mad treasure trove, archive of horrors of mankind, of humankind the stories told and told again.
The faces change but the pain and fear, the words remain. It’s unending, it’s our narrative as long as we survive this story will evolve and grow for we are humans. I worked amongst the desolation, fragments, survivors, of lives that might have flowered in their right time. And that endless unknowing of what might have been of who would I have been if that had not been done to me, to who I was, a child, and unsuspecting. Imagine the innocence and the quiet trust.
And all that time of working to heal — denial. A total blindness to the reality of the harm being done to children everywhere you look. It’s a reality, take a bus or a train, sit in a café you will be close to someone who has survived. And then the guaranteed denial that fact is fact In the face of all that. And then that sound of wheels within wheels grinding, the noise of conversations and the deals in closed rooms to keep silence, to protect the perpetrators and prevent the door room from being opened and the truth from being known and shared.
Forty years of denial, obstruction and frustration. Our lives are brief, a mere fluttering in time. So open the door wide and let the light in!
Child Sexual Abuse By Powerful Westminster Figures Covered Up For Decades, Inquiry Finds.
Etudes 1 (Après Ravel: Le Tombeau De Couperin — 1. Prélude)
A fish only exists on the flat screen a lion only exists in surround sound an elephant is only real in digital form although a 3D moulded form can be provided if they are dying out they have been recorded of course the smell is absent but that doesn’t matter they are not a part of our world they are not a part of It the disconnect between animals and It is permanent
Etudes 2 ( Après Debussy: Images #1, L 110 — Hommage A Rameau )
Space is constructed from flat lined edges in digital Wi-Fi time only Earth has decided to wrap itself in plastic (plastique) Earth has brought It upon itself. So It must be so. The laws of science of how It has all come to be means only misery Deep Time has no meaning
Etudes 3 (Après John Coltrane After The Rain)
The first law of It is “more” The second law of It is It’s never enough The fourth law of It is out of sight out of mind The fifth law of It is there is just today The sixth law of It is there is no consequence The seventh law of It is worrying is pointless The eighth law of It is don’t talk about your worries The ninth law of It is that there are no Laws The twelfth law of It is that there is no It.
Etudes 4 (Après Arvo Part — Stabat Mater for Choir and String Orchestra)
Earth is burning my soul is crying Earth is in flames and there are not enough tears to put out the flames Earth is burning my heart breaks but we must defy IT no more excuses resist
“How often, I thought to myself, had I lain thus in a hotel room, in Vienna or Frankfurt or Brussels, with my hands clasped under my head, listening not to the stillness, as in Venice, but to the roar of the traffic, with a mounting sense of panic. That then, I thought on such occasions, is the new ocean. Ceaselessly, in great surges, the waves roll in over the length and breadth of our cities, rising higher and higher, breaking in a kind of frenzy when the roar reaches its peak and then discharging across the stones and asphalt even as the next onrush is being released from where it was held by traffic lights. For some time now I have been convinced that it is out of this din that the life is being born which will come after us and will spell our gradual destruction, just as we have been gradually destroying what was there long before us.”