Twenty-four Floors by Pamela Ireland Duffy

The cladding melted

fell from our eyes

with the bodies of our children

the illusion of a caring society

gone up in smoke

we see with the eyes of the dead now

staring out from hollow windows

of black towering truth…

 

Prejudice fanned into flame with newspaper

smears soot-stained into walls

facts distorted into twisted metal

figures spun into smoke

humanity costed into ash

behind closed doors

twenty-four floors of hopes and dreams

incinerated like rubbish…

 

The anger of the poor

once lit

burns deep

and only justice

can extinguish it

we see with the eyes of the dead now

we know what the dead know

we are not to blame.

 

For the people of Grenfell Tower, living and dead.

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To name but a few by Pamela Ireland Duffy

(To the proprietors of the pro-Brexit press, sundry trolls, and anyone else who tells me to shut up and get over it.)

 

Don’t tell me how to love

the country of my birth

don’t tell me that to love my country

I must be like you

and not like me

Don’t tell that you built my country

on your wealth

or won my country on the battlefield

Your wealth was stolen from the womb

of mother Africa

plundered from other homelands

painted red and called The Empire.

 

My country was not won

in far-off lands

where brave men paid the price

of madmen’s sins

My country was woven in the mills of Lancashire

from cotton picked by brothers and sisters

some called slaves,

and hewn in darkness down the pit

by coalminers

My country was carried on the backs

of common labourers

forged in the sweat of steel-workers

and fed by farmhands

working in the fields

from dawn till dusk

My country was told in folktales

wound round maypoles

danced in clogs

and gathered in at harvest time

by common men and women

just like me.

 

So don’t tell me how to be British

The Tolpuddle martyrs were British

The men and women at Peterloo were British

Percy Shelley and William Blake were British

the Suffragettes were British

the Conscientious Objectors were British

the trespassers on Kinder Scout were British

the Committee of One Hundred were British

the women of Greenham Common were British

my mum and dad who hated violence

but fought a war to stop Hitler and his Nazis

were British

the 16 million who voted to stay

in the European Union were British

to name but a few

so don’t tell me I must be like you

and not like them

and not like me.

 

Don’t tell me that I cannot love

another country

or a continent

or all the continents and oceans

of this planet earth

You do not own

the people’s heart

and you cannot define me

and I will take no lessons

in patriotism

from the rattling ghost

of Empire past.

Reach by Pamela Ireland Duffy

declarations

treaties

wars begin

and end

with words

and in between

the unspeakable

lost

for words

fail me

walls

falling

blind choking

fingers reaching

towards the light

life reaching

up through ruined

war-machined

paralysis

voices reaching

up beyond

indifferent

ice clouds

to that space

where there are

still words

still hope

of an ending.

Voices in Time by Pamela Ireland Duffy

For years,

we sat in silence

tearing out our eyes

for fear of darkness,

biting off our tongues

for fear of lies

 

for years

fearful and lost

whilst gaolers jangled keys

and swaggered

and echoes whimpered

in the endless corridors

 

each blind eye

and silent tongue

turns the key more surely

on each hostage heart

and walls each one of us

into the solitary prisons

of an aching world

 

but it is time now

time to look

time to speak

we are humanity

and we are neither blind

nor silent

 

only look evil in the face

and speak its name

and all the choirs of history

shall sing unbound

and before us

no dark lie shall hold.

 

 

Pamela Ireland Duffy

I have written poems since childhood, but rarely showed them to others.  I have lived in France since 1988, and although I haven’t abandoned my native tongue, I write mostly in French, having been lucky enough to find support and encouragement in various writing groups.