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Thursday, May 25, 2017


by Elizabeth S. Wolf

It was her first concert
out with friends. The gang of girls.
Besties since babies, they said.
They picked outfits and did their hair,
one high ponytail,  smoky eyes. They listened
to their parents lecture and promised
to follow the signs and obey the rules and
not take drinks from strangers and
oh my god mom, relax. It’s a concert.
Not a bar. Not a North-West Derby
brawl. Just a bunch of girls
dancing and screaming to their
favorite songs. It was Ariana Grande
live on stage: Manchester Arena
Manchester England
22 May 2017.

Three girls, who decided
at the last minute not to wear
kitten ears- three bold teens
walked into the concert as if
they owned the world.

One girl died on the floor,
shattered; the last thing she saw
bouquets of pink balloons
rising towards the ceiling.

The second girl bled from wounds
scattered about her body. She is
in hospital now, hooked up to tubes,
waiting on tests. For several hours
she asked so many questions, over
and over, but now she does not.
She answers the doctors queries,
shifts for the nurses hands: yes, her
ears are still ringing; yes, she still
smells burnt tubing. She sips water
and stares. Shell shock, they whisper.
Her ma and da take turns at her
bedside or tending the others
back home.

The third girl went home
uninjured. She spent a little
longer in the loo and got
separated from her friends.
She lost her voice
screaming for hours.
Now she won’t talk, doesn’t
eat, doesn’t drink. She lies
curled on her bed, clutching
the string from a pink
balloon. When she goes
to the bathroom, her mum
stands by the doorway, crooning
a lullaby. They call her
uninjured, because
she didn’t bleed
at the scene.

She lay in her bed while
day broke up night, again
and again. And on the third
day she called her mum.
Mum, she whispered, wide eyed,
after the bomb there was blood
on the walls, I got so scared.
I was alone! she said,
alone alone. But then
I saw a lady, almost like you,
and she stopped running to lift
up a little girl who had fell.
And the girl, she just hung
on, and I remembered to
look for the helpers.

That’s right, said her mum,
stroking her hair. Look for
the helpers.

And then I was running and screaming
and in the big room, in the hotel,
there was a lady, black as pitch, she
smelled like soap, said the girl. And
I was shaking and looking all around
and she came and held me. I
don’t even know who she is.

That was Amina, said her mum.
She works for the hotel, she
cleans the rooms. She left her own
country to flee the bombs and
find food.  Now she lives here.
And found you.

Mum, said the girl. I know what I want
to do now. I know.

What’s that? asked her mum.

I want to be a helper, said the
girl. And she got out of bed.

Author’s note: Characters and some incidents in this narrative are fictional although descriptions are based on news reports from Manchester.

Elizabeth S. Wolf writes because telling stories is how we make sense of our world, how we heal, and how we celebrate. She seeks that sliver of truth amidst the chattering monkey mind. Also, she sings loudly while driving. Elizabeth’s chapbook What I Learned: Poems is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in fall 2017.