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Saturday, March 11, 2006


i.m Jean Charles de Menezes

by Andrew O'Donnell

‘Burly says if we don’t sing then we won’t have anything’
-Will Old

Wanting to start by slamming the keys
he imagines each letter calling down

to some coseismal core – on those tiny slabs

of dissolvable plastic, a dyable colour –

an unreachable night, this minute:

Last month they shot a man dead on the tube.
I’m having a hard time knowing how
many times a bullet went in, or if it matters.
But in every way, we boil down to wildness, reduce
sadnesses to sadder – questions implode, sound

tracks mute scenes. Where do words go?
Could you rid me of th is much imagination,
leave my CrimeWatch re-enactments
at the escalator? The grate of who is this man?
Where did you see him last? Is he the man,

the real man? Is he real? Who did this?

What did this? What Killed This Man?

What died? What fire got launched

in the dying – the dead – the Die of the dying.

What went out of him?
Tell me

you never saw it coming. Draw lots
for the update in your head, the want
for nothing.. that today in London nothing
much happened now over to you Zainab.
He Is Not The Man. Not Even Close. Now

the weather. And I'm on the tube.
At the station – a Stockwell morning.
Or afternoon. Evening. And the stain
in my head mirrors the sin in the air,
the air that isn’t there, the man who isn’t

there. Too many answers in that vast question
of a man. The stop. The station –
Too much coiled from body, too much carriage
of heart. Skull. The murals are yet to go
up, the hands are yet to go up. Right

there – and you have to go somewhere.
Somewhere. But where do you go? Who
do you see? Who do you talk to with the dead
in your head with the gangs of gh osts
in the night in your head? They say he was

working here. Living here. And my friend is like
watch yourself.. (These new looks.. these steps –
it’s surreal). They tell us what
he was wearing.. but what I want to know is
what wasn’t he wearing? What gave him

away? What didn’t give him away? What skin
wasn’t he sporting, whose breath wasn’t
he breathing, what train wasn’t
he catching, what language didn’t he know..
enough to know better? I guess

I want to know a lot. They arrested
ten protestors, took them to Bow Magistrates
this week*. Is this news? Or is this just
the weather? They arrested them
because they opened and closed

their mouths about opening and closing

their mouths about something. Ministers
in Parliament say they can’t work
properly because of the noise. They say
they can’t work properly because
of the noise. Because of The Silence.

They won’t let people use loud speakers
outside Parliament anymore. Too much
imagination all round. There could be a bomb
hidden behind a placard, or some other device
or other. They actually said this

to another man** whose spent years
saying something, repeating something
(this I can’t actually repeat within the distance
of where it might be heard). You can read it
in the minutes. They said it to him

in court – Use your imagination. There
could be a bomb behind a placard, a spy
in a sandwich, a prayer in a mug of tea,
a wish, wedged between a bunch of flyers.
Or in a song. Or in the bloody breeze –

There might be a voice between
The voices, a death between the deaths
that is actually worth something
to someone. Or perhaps a voice that went out
of a voice that means something

to someone, or another voice beyond that.
Use your imagination. There Could Be a Bomb
Behind a Placard? All of this, while
he’s obviously a decent man
. The ‘he’
of we, I, you (or anyone?.. while his beatings

come at night when the comrades,
the shouters and doubters are home alre ady.
His nose has been broken more than once
and he’s got comments for the comments
about his face. You think I wanna look

like this?
he says) Anyone. I wouldn’t want to look
like anyone right now. What would anyone do?
What would a British Muslim do
with all these gifts through his letterbox?***
Except make a complaint to the police

like anyone would. What would anyone
do when the police, instead of addressing
his complaint, (the complaint like anyone’s).
Instead of doing something about anyone’s
problem – they arrest him and he spends

three weeks in prison. Yeah right,
I wouldn’t like to be anyone right now.
Anything could happen. Probably does –
O this sad nation of people come away
from windows – doors – isolated incidents:

Awkwardtime. At his mosque
they thought he was on holiday.
His family knew he wasn’t. They knew
he was (and wasn’t) in the picture pictured here
as I look out the leaving window thinking

to start by slamming the keys

I find each letter calling down

to skinned words – from those tiny pieces

of dissolving plastic, the naked colour –

a reaching night, beyond this

partic ular shade – this. Minute...................... …….


* Ten protestors were arrested on August 1st and 7th for peacefully speaking out against The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill. This bill introduces an exclusion zone within a one mile radius of Parliament so that spontaneous protest, within this area, is now a criminal offence.
** Refers to peace protestor, Brian Haw, who lives on Parliament Square.
*** Taken from an account of a series of events in West London.

Andrew O'Donnell is from Lancashire, England, but divides his time between England and South Korea. His poems have been published with Grain (Canada), Takahe (NZ), Poetry New Zealand, The Rialto, Orbis, The Wolf, and The Red Wheelbarrow (U.K). O'Donnell recently won third prize in the Essex Poetry Festival Competition 2005 judged by poet Roddy Lumsden.