Try to remain calm (trigger warning for abduction)

The girl who didn’t come home
Did everything right
Worked hard
Had friends
Kept to a well-lit path
Talking to loved ones
On her phone
Headphones in
Music off
Covered head to toe
In muted, age-appropriate
It made no difference
Someone snatched her
Took all her well-made
Choices away
For no good reason
Wiping her light
From the face of the earth
Before returning her
To the soil from whence
We all come.
Now what do we
The troubled audience
Make of this story?
Was the snatcher
An aberration?
Can we find some way
To blame the girl
For transforming
From a positive
To a negative
Her victimhood
Plunging property prices
In the area
Where the monster
Did not live or work
But chose to hunt.
The narrative
Of a week-long-wait
Haunts us.
Forensics teams
Combing through
Ill-kept shrubbery
Blocking the usual
Criminal activities.
A small bonus, perhaps.
We bite our nails
Reading tabloid
Hoping for innocent
Car crash?  Coma?
Jane Doe?  Dunno.
Checking phones
And feeds
For well-raked muck
Old and new leads.
Hiding our nerves
Measuring risk
Wondering when the
But by now
Charge is to be
Read out by
Cringing colleagues
Whose work lives
Just got more complicated:
Having to justify
How one of their own
A bodyguard
Trusted to bear arms
Pissed in the pool
In spite of safeguards
Psych profiling
Developed vetting
In such a public
What do we learn
Boys and girls?
How can we reconcile
The role of protector
With predator?
Are they two sides
Of the same coin?
Symptomatic of
Toxic masculinity
Or some sort of
Mid-life crisis
Prompting a
Psychotic break?
Would we be as shocked
To read the story
Coming from overseas
Wearing foreign faces
Living lives that bore
Less resemblance
To our own?
How can we
Protect ourselves
From further selection
By opportunistic
Middle-aged parents
Abusing the family car?
Was the position
Of authority
Or did it go
To the head
Of the perpetrator
Tipping the scale
From potential aggressor
To active threat?
Can we trust that
This was an
Isolated incident
An anomaly?
Or will there be
Further reckoning
Of countless
Cold cases?
Must we walk home
In packs of ten?
Keys clutched in
Sweaty fists
Ready to go
For the eyes?
Armed to the teeth
With pepper spray?
Trained in martial arts
Aiming roundhouse kicks
At fellow commuters
All jumping at shadows?
Avoid crossing the road
Unless covered by
CCTV from all
Possible angles?
Spurn all contact
With strangers?
Take vitamins?
Go vegan?
Eat, love, pray?
The situation
Remains hopeless.
Life continues.
We work, eat, sleep,
Exercise, dress down,
Carry a personal alarm
(Until it causes us
Too many problems),
Practice defensive
Try to remain calm.
Family and friends
Mourn her passing.
Strangers gawk at
Sensational headlines
Turn the page
Scroll to the next story.
The senseless
Will now be
Minutely analysed
By future victims.
A crime has taken place
We all try to understand
How to ensure
It never happens
To us.

My Uncle Fred Flew

This poem is written based on a familiar family anecdote from my great uncle Fred, who was a pilot in the First World War (RFC) and absolutely hated flying, but tolerated it as the lesser of two evils.

My Uncle Fred said
There are few things as crazy
As teaching a man how to fly

But nevertheless
He felt fresh as a daisy
While soaring around in the sky

For he looked at the ground
Through the canvas and wood
And was sure that his way was the best

He insisted it sound
If not ethically proved
So the Flying Corps flew on his chest

For it’s better by far
He would whisper to Nan
To be perched in the lap of the Gods

And be laughed at and scorned
In each pub, club and bar
That be shot at and drowning in mud

So when given the choice
To be burned to a crisp
By a passing balloon and cigar

He had taken his chance
Floating up in the clouds
With the birds and the air and the fear

And he swore a strong oath
At the powers that were
Irresponsibly running the thing

For he must be a fool
To be choosing to trust
In a glorified tent, wheels and wings

Yet he couldn’t deny
While his faculties ruled
That it made far more sense to steer clear

Than be ‘trenched in a war
In a hole in the ground
With the other poor buggers down there

My great grandfather was also involved in the First World War. He joined the Canadian infantry under age and came home full of shrapnel, having been promoted very fast for a seventeen year old, twice left for dead on the battlefield, and stripped of his dog tags by mistake, so his family got quite a shock when he returned from war as they had been told he was among the fallen. He married a nurse as was relatively common (and sensible in his condition as he had to live with the shrapnel all his life). I never knew him personally, as by the time I came along he was no longer with us, but by all accounts, he was a man of relatively few words and infinite patience.