This poem is about photography and newspapers, and how the images we see before us can tell so many different stories, whether they’re true or false. So much rests on what spin we put on them, and the explanations we give. I’ve chosen to put this in the context of the Second World War, particularly the London Blitz, but it’s still a topic that is very relevant today, as all of the newspapers we read have a particular political bias, and therefore the same story can serve two different interests. It’s all in the hands of the interpreter.
One picture shows a cathedral consumed by fire,
another shows it rising from the flames.
What if I told you they’re both the same photograph?
Does London burn or does it become strong again?
‘Oh! It’s a lovely war’
said by the lady in the widows weeds,
‘We must defend British shores’,
uttered a lad of spectral seeds,
For they’ve ashen faces and nowhere to go
searching for traces of someone they know.
The fires are burning but they frighten no more,
the tables are turning with death at their door.
Pick up a paper, you’ll see soldiers laughing,
read another and they’re dead in the field.
Some see a good life, others see the skeletons,
look behind the captions to see what is revealed.
‘Come, you must hide away’
shouted the general in uniform,
‘My faith will keep me safe’
prayed the woman with a cruciform,
For the light is all they have left to hope,
and their sight tells them they will not cope.
When the bombs come they’ll look to the clouds.
After the siren’s sung they’ll make it out.
But who’s to say what they’re feeling?
They may smile but they’re still reeling
from the missile smashing through the ceiling.
It’s their stories we make habit of stealing.
The rain washes away the ink of the page,
the page declaring stories of the age,
the interpretations of the pain and the rage,
of those who chose (or not) to engage.
When the records are lying, who will tell
the stories of the dying and their own hell?
Polarised are the thoughts in our minds
as we’re sought to become one of our kind.