Last year was the hundredth anniversary of the world’s first underground passenger railway, The London Underground. I wrote four poems for a website that never materialized.
Seeing that I’ve been traveling through those ancient tunnels for over thirty years; I felt myself qualified to make some observations. This one was inspired by the Kings Cross Fire of 1987. 31 people were killed and smoking was permanently banned from the underground as a result. Instead of trying to crystallize the whole event in verse; I focused on the aftermath.
The poem was suggested by the story of a musician, whose hands were severely burned in the firestorm. And while I have never suffered severe burns, I can now empathise with the man’s loss.
I used to run marathons, and recently found that my old 5K time put me in the top 1% to 2% of runners in the country. I exchanged my mobility for life; just as the musician exchanged his ability to play, for life. I hope, like me, he found different ways of making music.
The Pieces He Will never Play June, 2013
I imagine him standing in the Turbine Hall.
Playing an asbestos Violin,
connected to the loudest of sound-systems.
He’s dressed in a boiler suit.
That suits the buildings former use,
and a Station Master’s cap.
And despite the amplification.
Not a single sound issues –
from his violin.
Instead there’s a low hum.
Reminiscent of something moving,
at incredible speed.
I imagine he wants to explain.
Why this cavernous space,
smells of smoke and burning flesh.
Why a carelessly discarded cigarette.
And a journey from Highbury to Kings Cross,
ended at Sodom and Gomorrah.
And I think about the pieces,
he will never play.
While cradling his silent violin.