Brian killed himself yesterday.
He was the friend of my friend,
someone I only knew as a presence,
hardly even a face,
a shy voice in the corners of a raucous party.
I made tea for my friend, and we sat down
while he stared at the table, confused,
as if trying to understand words
in a language that can't exist.
Fergus died yesterday,
who used to play chess with me
when I was twelve, his tiny eyes
swimming behind thick glasses.
I'd been remembering him for no reason,
his timidity, his patience with the boys
who teased him. He was a teacher.
Now he doesn't exist.
Yesterday, mud and water poured
through the streets of Algiers.
Old women were drowned in their armchairs.
Fruit from the market stalls bobbed
beside branches and bodies.
Young men dug through metres of sludge
for relatives, faces, a second burial
under a sky still full of rain.
Yesterday, a thousand men
died in the shell of a school in Mazar-i-Sharif.
It was the end of a journey
all the way from home with a gun,
the word of God, a photograph
of smiling parents, brothers and sisters
crumpled in a trouser pocket.
"God is great" - I suppose that must be true.
Greater than shells and bullets,
broken stone, abandonment, heaven and hell -
greater than you and I, the words we can't find
for anything that actually exists.
This is original work
Four events inspired this poem, all of which occurred on 12th November 2001.