Bobby Sands died. That’s how old I am.
Bobby Sands died, and the red haired girl died too,
two days apart – so now, when I discuss
the hunger strikers, I still feel
that gush of anger, that someone could just die.
We’d been in a school play together, her and I,
the Redhead. As if her hair defined her.
Perhaps it did. I think now, that hair might have been
her mother’s first loss, the first thing
Somebody had dropped out, so we
both moved up a notch, theatrically.
I became the mother, and she became
the governess. A comic part. I wanted to play
tragedy back then.
The father was a guy called Tim.
He wore white jeans. Went off and joined the Met.
The Metropolitan Police – so that maybe
when I was down in London, doing all that
student stuff, making my way in party clothes
at daybreak through the empty city streets,
and knowing this was how my life would always be,
if I’d been picked up for some minor crime,
or been the victim of an unprovoked attack,
so guileless in my tawdry party clothes –
it could have been him that I dealt with.
And maybe he was at Orgreave. So while I was
layering on my eyeliner and putting change
into the miner’s tin, he was up there,
sticking in his boot. So far apart
we drift, just spiders, really, riding threads.
When my hairdresser shaved my head, she cried, and
an old lady sitting next to me reached over –
“You look just like that Irish girl” she said,
and we all laughed, smiling and crying. That was my
first loss, but nothing like her mother’s –
that great cloud of Titian red, those curls,
she must have sighed and cursed that hair so many times,
and then wept at the losing of it.
Bobby Sands was an Irish hunger striker who starved himself to death. Orgreave was the site of a violent confrontation between the police and the striking miners in 1984 (such an appropriate date). NaPoWriMo asks us to write a poem where lots of things happen at the same time. I’m not sure I’ve quite done that, but I went with the poem, which turned out to be a collection of shards of memories.