Children, broadly smiling, fantasising,
sparkling-eyed and idolising,
and crowds of happy adolescents
with vital vibrant effervescence,
and sons and daughters, sisters, brothers,
childhood friends and teenage lovers -
all had made their fateful way
to the concert hall that day in May.
And mothers and fathers with delight
also came that way that night
at the concert's culmination,
to savour their childrens' high elation
and share the mood of celebration.
The music finished, the evening done,
the parents, the young, and the very young
all together. In unison.
All together - except for one .....
The one who chose to end the fun.
In an instant.
A bloody blast, a moment's silence - and then the screams
to herald a lifetime's nightmare, and end a family's dreams,
as mothers cried for their children - and children for their mums,
and brothers for their sisters, and fathers for their sons.
Families torn asunder, bloodied, broken, cut to pieces
a loved one's life now ebbs and ceases.
In an instant.
But just one instant later .....
though families had been broken, the people came together,
forged by bonds of unity more durable than ever.
Police and paramedics, and the people from the street,
came to here from far and near to do their best to treat
and tend the wounds of utter strangers ..... and to simply share
a shoulder upon which to cry, to prove that people care.
And thus from one vile germ of gross and cruel insanity
was spawned one thousand shoots of pure and good humanity.
Just one instant later.
Will anything change? For better or for worse?
In our country? In our society? Or in the peoples' souls?
Our country will stay open
and our community will stay close.
Our speech will stay free
and our love will stay dear.
Our lives will go on
and new life will take off.
So does anything change as the world continues?
The children will become teens,
and the teens will become parents,
and the parents will become grandparents of children and of teens,
and they'll all still go to concerts.
Some children will never become teens,
and some teens will never become parents.
And some parents will never again have their reason to live.
Whatever was the point?
The Background to This Poem
On Monday 22nd May 2017, the singer Ariana Grande performed in a show at the Arena Concert Hall, Manchester, England. Her fan base is young - very young - and so the majority of the audience for the concert were children and teenagers - mostly girls. Many had excitedly looked forward to seeing their idol for months in advance, because of the logistics of organising a concert like this meant that some fans would have received their tickets as Christmas or birthday presents as long ago as the previous year.
At the end of the concert, younger members of the audience began to gather in the foyer, no doubt in a state of some euphoria having at long last seen Ariana perform. In some cases parents, older sisters, brothers or other relatives had accompanied them to the concert, but in other cases the relatives had stayed away and were now arriving to collect them to take them home. And so the foyer was crowded with people of all ages.
Then, at 10.30 pm, a suicide bomber detonated a device. Twenty two died. Nine of the twenty two were aged between fourteen and nineteen, and eight of those were girls. The youngest victim of all was eight year old Saffie Roussos. Many of the twenty two had family members and loved ones who lived, but they had witnessed the devastation. Afterwards the stories of community support, the selfless actions of local people, and the professionalism of the emergency services, were all in stark contrast to the story of the bomber.
* * *
I'm not really a poet. I've written very little poetry, but this piece which combines free verse and rhyming verse seemed the best way for me to try to commemorate this event, and express as best I can some of my thoughts and feelings after Manchester. I wrote it during the six days following the blast.