Chris R-0115 Image by Christine Renney

Don’t ever think that we are
So far gone and too far down
And that it doesn’t matter
That their voices, the others’ voices
Are louder and have more clout
That we are just a clamour
And that they are the clarion
And that only they can shout
That they have the megaphone
And all of the music
And are able to drown out our lyrics
Or that the street corner isn’t
A stage or the blank page
Or that the pen, a biro, isn’t enough
Or that they are a fact
And we are merely fiction



The day after the November 2015 Paris attacks

I was standing on the platform with my eyes shut, listening for the familiar rumble of the northbound train. As the train was pulling up I saw how busy it was and thought, Saturday night, last tube out of town, of course it’s packed, I definitely won’t get a seat, bugger. But then the carriage that stopped in front of me had an empty bit where nobody was sitting or standing, an uncharacteristic gap in the sardines. I gathered that somebody’s obviously thrown up everywhere or that perhaps there’s an unconscious drunkard lying on the floor. Wincing at the prospect of the smell of piss and/or vomit accompanying me all the way to the last stop, I got on the train. But there was nothing there. Only a young man, dressed in traditional Islamic clothing, sitting quietly with two bags of groceries at his Adidas-clad feet. I was baffled. All of the seats around him were free and clean and dry and yet everyone else was standing by the doors and acting shifty. I looked at the other passengers for an explanation, thinking I must have missed something, but they all looked away or looked down or inspected their fingernails, so I said What the fuck? and sat down opposite the young man. I gave him a brief nod, took my book from my handbag and began to read, and then the man said to me, Thank you, and I said, I’m sorry