Poem: Grenfell Tower, the arithmetic of grief

Do you know the first time I knew

I was not safe because of my class,

Because of the accident of my birth,

My factory-working parents?

 

I was thirteen, in 1966, World Cup year

And a great pile of dirt

Slid down a hillside in Aberfan, South Wales

And killed children and adults in a school.

 

I wasn’t ready to be angry.

I was too young for that.

I wasn’t ready to be angry.

That would come later.

 

Do you know when I realised

I was ready to be angry?

It was when a chemical plant

Blew up in Flixborough. 28 dead. I was twenty-one.

 

I was ready to be angry then.

I was old enough to walk a picket line.

I was angry enough to push a police horse back

At Lewisham when fascists marched.

 

Do you know when I realised

They even made our leisure time deadly?

It was in 1985 when Bradford City burned

And fifty-six people burned with it.

 

And did we learn? Did we fuck.

They went on treating us like shit,

Our class watching our sport

And the shit came home to roost at Hillsborough.

 

Do you know how long it took to understand

The arithmetic of class? It took me

Twenty-one years, the time it takes

To make a man, an angry man.

 

Here is the arithmetic:

Aberfan, 116 children, 28 adults,

Flixborough, 28 souls,

Bradford, 56 beautiful lives,

Hillsborough 96 unforgotten dead.

 

So here is what I want to know,

Now I get the mathematics of class,

At the Grenfell Tower,

In London Town, when will we know

The number, the calculus of grief?

 

 

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