This Quiet Morning

a poem in remembrance of the Manchester twenty-two

this quiet morning on the corner of Oldham Street 
a barista takes plastic cups of hot sweet tea
balanced on his Bakelite tray so carefully
to policemen who stand at ease, tired on their feet
 
shading their eyes from the bright May sunshine
fatigued, weary, unaccustomed to the sunlight
grateful for their cuppa having been up all night
together a fragile but united thin blue line
 
this quiet morning separated by circumstance 
friends exchange messages of love though miles apart
the old lady selling Ariana love hearts 
offers me a blessing, leaving nothing to chance
 
handing back the keys of her response vehicle 
a paramedic hugs her colleague so tightly
he feels his spine will break as if cinder toffee
the only sound between them the short-wave crackle
 
this quiet morning an invisible cotton shroud
has muted the routine hubbub of the city
united in this moment of grief, stepping deftly
through the disbelief and the silence of the crowd 
 
Shaun stood selling news on the corner of Deansgate
stabs his finger at the headline so bitterly
it ain’t the first time though is it our kid, says he
keep the change for a brew I say, God bless you mate
 
it is as though death has woken us from slumber
as cold and indiscriminate as death can be
we have remembered for this moment what truly
is of value, just what blessings we can number
 
this loss is the banal reality of war 
that tears away the very soul of our belief
we can forge no lasting weapon against this grief
but to embrace in the wake of deaths we abhor
 
this evil tide we will forever disavow
this quiet morning, although we bow our heads to cry 
we will not die when our brothers and sisters die
we shall avenge their deaths the one way we know how
 
by choosing to live

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