November 22, 2015
November 13, 2015
In the same week that the infamously anonymous executioner known as Jihadi John was reported killed in an American drone strike, news was also released of a seemingly successful operation in which the full face of a New York bike mechanic and messenger, who had died two days earlier in a biking accident, was transplanted ontothe head of a former fireman from Tennessee, whose face was burnt off while fighting a fire 14 years ago.
So farewell, then, Jihadi John, faceless face of Isis.
The implacable role you dressed for, merits elegy or epic
But men half grown are not worthy of that part, and comic
Is the mode that captures best your adolescent crisis
Vented on tragic, headless victims, their lives fully formed nonetheless.
And so this is a sonnet, renowned for doing dialectic
The running gag – you make me sick – between death in the desert aesthetic
And ‘Little Mo’ covering nose and mouth when schoolgirls scorned his halitosis.
Dead man’s face pulled tight, tacked on to another’s head
Capillaries tied together, prick his lip and – phew! – he bleeds anew.
There are ‘things in life worse than dying’, the former fireman said
Whose first face melted along with the mobile home he tried to save.
No more stops, stares and ‘monster’ – only the question ‘I am who?’
Now his death mask is behind him and new life starts instead.
‘There was a huge red ball in the sky above the centre of the city. I turned to my mother and asked “what’s that?”. And she replied: “that’s the cathedral”.’
A few days before the seventy-fifth anniversary of the blitz on Coventry in November 1940, an elderly woman was asked to recall that night of her girlhood when her home town burned down.
From early evening until early morning, more than 500 German aircraft dropped bombs on this Midlands city. Coventry was sent to pieces. Forlorn attempts to save themedieval cathedral came to nothing when the water supply ran dry.
Our eye-witness spoke in the voice we reserve for memories we revere – resonant (we hope), redolent (we’d like to think), little short of sanctified; until the last phrase, when the reverential tone was flattened into matter-of-fact.
Whether she was echoing her mother’s lack of intonation, or whether the change oftone was all her own; or perhaps it’s part of the Coventry city psyche – any road, ‘that’sthe cathedral’ was delivered deadpan, without any saving grace.
No more tripping the light fantastic for those good ol’ cops charged with murdering a six year old last week.
The dead boy was a passenger in his father’s car when it came under fire from Louisiana law enforcement officers.
Taken before the fatal shooting, Facebook photos of father and son make you think ofa beam of light between them.
A long way from luminous, the officers’ leaden mug shots suggest graceless lives lived on a flat earth peopled by perps, victims and law enforcement; and barely a human soul among the lot of them.
Maybe with partners and families they managed to enter into the spirit of the thing (thething spirited, spiritualised because people have entered into it); or perhaps prison-style purgatory is where they’ve been living all along.
Half-way between the bombing of Coventry and the recent recollection of it, in theearly 1980s the same flat tone was clearly audible in the singing voice of Terry Hall, lead vocalist in Coventry’s best-known band, The Specials. He set about using it to deliberately poignant effect, even if it was also part of his personality (the singer’s persona who previously worked in a stamp collecting shop).
A gift to be able to turn it on and off. But what if you can’t give it back?
Life among the graceless must be a crying shame,