Friday, January 27, 2006

For Shelley, fellow passenger

Shelley was on my train. I did not meet her, though I wonder whether I saw her when I was looking around the carriage, as we approached Kings Cross. Yesterday was her birthday, she should have been 27. People who loved her - her family - have been reading this blog, and contacted me after we had a private ceremony to remember our fellow passengers six months on.

This is a poem by her aunty Bernadette, who is a poet. Shelley loved words, as I love words. I would have liked to have met Shelley, and sat with her at a Kings Cross United pub session. We had things in common beside this train we travelled on; a book we both loved as children, old radio comedy shows. Shelley, this is to you from people who love you.

How We All Died With Her
in the London Bombing, July 2005

She breaks my heart, the beautiful girl on the train,
she breaks all of my hearts, wriggling the fingers
of her left hand up under her chin in the dream,
goodbye. That’s her wide pale forehead, her owl-eyes
big behind the brand-new glamorous London glasses,
the Kelston girl who sat for hours, head in a book,
beside the Waitemata harbour.

She’s somebody now. She’s on the news. She’s missing.

In Auckland there’s rain and the augury of thunder.
The sun comes out, then it’s rain again as if we haven’t cried
enough. There’s no sign of her and the media are impatient.
They’re hungry for the story, they want to eat us.
Tell us your story, they say, we want to hear your story
and we say sorry, there’s no story yet, not till we’ve found her.

Maybe she just got off before the others,
simply stepped out of herself and off the train,
mooching back down the dark, stinking, rat infested,
scorching tunnel, beyond the blood, the burned bodies,
the wrecked metal, everything out of joint.
Maybe she simply moved out in all her sweet competence,
with that funny little loopy smile of hers
like a wise animal that knows how to slink back down
in the silky grass and wait there, ears turning like props,
till the death sounds stop and the killers have gone away.

Passengers are swimming in the exploded dark.
They’re like fish gaping open-mouthed towards the camera.
They’re trying to say something we cannot hear
and we shudder in case we see her. To see her would be far
more terrible than not to see her, more terrible even
than never to see her again. A dark fluency stirs and moves
things from place to place in the doomed carriage,
an arm, a leg, a ribcage, a credit card, a pink purse.

We don’t want to share her, we’ve swallowed her up,
we hold her safe in our bellies, her father, her mothers,
her brothers, her cousins, her aunt, her lovers, her friends,
we’re all groaning and weeping and holding onto each other
and laughing and swearing and screaming in this terrible birth.

How will we recognise her? Who can we trust
who will show her to us? Who dares tell us the truth?
Someone steps out of the crowd, walks calmly past
the smiling eyes of the dead pinned up in the alleyway
so we can find them. Someone goes underground,
kneels in the dark in the ditch beside the rails.
Someone leans over her, black brooch, curiously wrought
burnt-out ship, someone holds her and finds her human,
fills her with their own sweet human angel breath

And for just one moment, that’s enough for us.

Bernadette Hall


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