Private Havoc

I walked with my music in my ears this morning. I’d woken with that familiar tightness in my back and thought it would distract me. Words fix themselves in my head. James Taylor’s song New Hymn, a gentle acapella piece that speaks of a private havoc and ends with a plea to be here, be now. And then his name as a crossword clue last night. Here is comfort, here is relief. And here. And here.

They drowned in their own house. Their home, their safety, deluged by water. And then the seemingly inconsequential as part of the news bulletin. Two were saved because they went for some sweets. All the rest gone, a one-year-old baby, the grandparents. A river bursting its banks. What an image. You can hear the roaring, see that ugly brown swirling mass of water taking over, breaking, flooding, taking over. All gone. Sicily that land of heat, white sun, lazy joy. Drowned.

And then his voice. I haven’t really heard it before, talking of barbed wire being beautiful. Chilled. Chilled to the bone.

It’s his birthday today. We don’t do much. He opens his cards. A smile. Then gone. How old do you think he is? I ask her at the till. Sixty-four, she says. What? he says, what about fifty-two? He looks well. He is well. Stay a while, my love. Please. x

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.