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WORD VIEW: Lament [for young six]


Esther Phillips

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What words, what images
best fit the shape of grief?
What song?
What skilful rendering
bring relief from memory?
Too soon, too soon . . . .
How does the heart recover/ from the lives we’ve met and touched?/ So little time/so little time/ yet loved so much.
The above are excerpts from two poems I had written on other occasions, both having to do with loss. The first was related to the death of a young woman who was of delicate physical structure, hence the bird imagery further on.
The death of the young from illness or accident is heartbreaking. When six young women die, not from illness or accident, but by a wilful act, a small nation such as ours goes into shock.
Images beat relentlessly at the imagination: a weapon wielded with intent to maim, a firebomb hurled through the air, young women huddled in the back room of a building fearing for their lives, the last screams from exhausted lungs, a final whispered prayer.
Ever since this horrible tragedy, my mind has been going back among other thoughts to Thomas Hardy’s poem The Convergence Of The Twain. It is not only the multiple tragedy of the Titanic’s sinking on which I’m reflecting, but the idea that opposing forces are working simultaneously at any given moment: while the famous ship was being prepared for its maiden voyage, the iceberg that would destroy the vessel was also being formed.
I think of youth with all its promise, passion and hope. I imagine these six young women waking up on the morning of September 3, embodying, possibly, all the above. Though some of their dreams are unrealised at the moment, a good chance exists that time will offer them the opportunities they have missed for whatever reasons.
On that same day, however, the very opposite is in motion. In another place perhaps not too far away, rage, malice and desperation are fermenting and will ripen into action. The two groups of people possibly do not know each other.
They have one thing in common, however. Both groups will meet in the same place at the same time later that day. Promise and hope will be annihilated. Evil will have its way.
Thomas Hardy believed that the individual’s actions and their consequences were largely governed by fate. And indeed one may be inclined to ponder on such a notion particularly when confronted by events of such tragic proportions.
What is more important at this time, however, is for us as to recognise that negative forces now being generated in our Barbadian society are capable of driving young perpetrators to commit  some of the most inhuman acts against innocent citizens.
While so much looks prosperous on the surface of this society, forces antithetical to anything that is good seem bent on its destruction.
We are beset by another all-encompassing tragedy: the death of conscience and good moral judgment.
I extend my deepest sympathy to the relatives of the deceased as they pay their last respects to their loved ones. To each of the young women no longer with us and as I did for my young friend some years ago,
I bring you words
in softened syllables
to soothe . . .
salt tears
to heal your wounds.
Come North Wind,
bearer of birds heavenward,
there is the Lover of her soul
Who waits for her.
Take her to Him, quickly.
But bear her
gently.
Farewell.     
                                              
• Esther Phillips is an educator, poet and editor of BIM: Arts For The 21st Century. Email: [email protected]

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