13 November 2015 to 16 November 2015 by Helen May Williams

pebbles on a beach

cubes in an underground vault

human lives lived in

interstices of cement —

blocks of space & blocks of time


friday the thirteenth —

lately there is no exit

no waking dream no

ingenious solution

to resolve nightmare deadlock


Bataclan Paris

organised barbarism —

paleolithic curse

two tribes live side by side

each one the barbarians


‘ . . . gunman in the eye

he was young in his twenties

calmly reloading’


whorled calcium shells

dissolve into fatal white dust

clouds of destruction


‘ran to lighting room

right of stage —ten people there

there was no exit

we had run from one trap to

next —  we waited for silence


‘. . . . reloading their guns

so we ran across the stage

saw them firing on

piles of people in the room

my eyes saw scene of carnage


woman twice wounded

bleeding losing consciousness

carried her to exit’


others hung from

upstairs window sills — let go

hobbled down back street


‘they strafed restaurant

as one we fell to the floor

we stayed there for a minute


‘I noticed woman

next to me —  she was

fatally wounded’

her reporter’s voice without

any trace of emotion


rules of warfare changed

some time between world war 2 &

Vietnam conflict

and the current day — so who

are the barbarians?


 . . . interrupt this nightmare

to bring bodies piled three deep —

pebbles on fraught beach


Entrevaux’s mayor

checks his watch one more time

then leads whole village

through narrow streets to midday

at Porte d’Italie


steps into dignity

stands on war memorial

requests a minute’s silence


through tears we read the

rollcall of world war one

dead for liberté

égalité fraternité

a century ago


in clear blue midi sky

we read the names of fresh victims —

neoteric glimpse


public commemoration

of héros morts pour la patrie

not an empty gesture as

thousands pay respect —

wherever they stand


in this shared moment

we have processed to vision

of next terrible war



3 thoughts on “13 November 2015 to 16 November 2015 by Helen May Williams

  1. Reblogged this on helenmaywilliams and commented:
    I’ve been following French coverage of events of Friday 13th. It feels to me as if this is a significant moment in history, as a left wing French president acknowledges that his country is ‘at war’. I’m not sure that anything will be quite the same again in the West after this.

    So, here is a poem that sums up my sense of the past three days.


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