So on Sunday I was taking a stroll with my youngest daughter, who seems to have inherited my eye for detail or, more accurately, my squirrelesque habit of being distracted by tiny tidbits. Anyway, we’d stopped halfway to buy some water and an ice-cream, when she spotted the CD.
The thing is actually embedded in perspex, which was a little dusty, so she wiped it clean with the tip of her trainer. And I said: “I’ve actually written poem about that CD.”
“Really?” she said. “What’s it for?”
“I think someone jumped out the window.”
“What was the poem about?”
“I’m trying to remember how it went. I think the CD is by Nirvana.”
“Is it?” she said, peering at the CD. “Looks like handwritten Arabic text to me.”
“Seriously?” I said, genuinely surprised. “I’ll try to find the poem.”
I’d actually posted in June 2010, almost exactly ten years ago. It was titled NIRVANA and I’d put it to music and performed it with my band Brandjes. The chorus went: “Hello, hello, hello, how low?” Which was incredibly profound of me, I think. The poem itself went as follows:
Around the corner from the mini-market
Where I get my early-morning
Milk, bananas, cigarettes
Of the supermarket run
There is a tile memorial
A CD set in glass
That shimmers square
Amid its concrete neighbours
The surface scratched
Except on rainy days
When we vaguely see
And hear the thud
Of Nevermind on stone
Head-first, of course
Fingers intertwined on back
The only way to make
The four-storey drop
That final stage dive
Admittedly, not the happiest poem I’ve ever written, but the story is about to take a turn for the worse, because as I stood there trying to remember the words to the poem, an elderly lady stopped at a social distance and asked: “Would you like to know what happened there?”
“Yes, I was just saying…” I began, prompting the lady to launch straight into her account.
“Do you remember, about 15 years ago, two small boys found a hand grenade?”
“Vaguely…” I replied, already suspecting what horrors lay ahead.
“They were in the phone booth over there,” she said, pointing to the park across the road. “And then one of them pulled out the pin…and then the whole thing exploded…and one of them took the brunt…I knew his mother…I still see her sometimes…awful…and that CD is exactly where…”
At this point I wanted to break distancing protocol and place my hand over her mouth, but she was unstoppable, giving a vivid account of what she had witnessed from her window across the street, which left my daughter and I staring open-mouthed.
“Wow,” I said. “What a story.”
“Yes,” said my daughter. “Thanks for sharing it with us.”
“My pleasure,” said the elderly horror storyteller. “It’s important to remind people of what happened. And also to warn them about leaving stuff lying around for children to find.”
“Like hand grenades?” I said.
“That was quite detailed,” remarked my daughter as we continued our walk.
“Unnecessarily detailed,” I ventured.
“Shall we sit down for a bit?” she said pointing to a bench alongside the canal.
“Good idea,” I said and we sat quietly side-by-side in the sun, watching the ducks.