Still Music

As I sit on Sunday afternoon
among so many, young and old,
(so many old!) and listen
to the Mozart, Mendelssohn,
Louisa Staples, Finchley children,

I begin to feel the weight
of what has happened,
sense the pressing presence
of the silent listeners,
six million souls beside us;

quickly calculate
what all these souls had weighed,
move to metric from imperial,
from kilogrammes to tonnes:
five hundred thousand tonnes;

then every man and woman,
every frightened child
who couldn’t catch the train
looks down at us, remaining
Kinder, friends and families,

outsiders like myself
who fail to understand
why there’s still music,
why sorrow never stops,
why the partings carry on.

This poem came out this morning in response to a concert I attended on Sunday afternoon at the Camden Roundhouse, the London premier of Carl Davis’s ‘Last Train to Tomorrow’.

It seemed so appropriate that the composers in the first half – Mozart and Mendelssohn – had been child prodigies, as is the violinist, Louisa Staples. Time and again, speakers referred to the children in the audience.

Of course, an event at which many of the Kinderwere present would be dominated by the elderly. But that’s important: as I told my class, theirs is the last generation who will hear from the survivors of this depraved act.

While speakers spoke and musicians played, I felt as if we weren’t alone that afternoon and I actually sat and calculated what six million people would weigh – so macabre – as I looked up at the ceiling of the Roundhouse.

The last stanza came to me when I’d read Felix Mendelssohn’s musings on death. It also draws on what I heard Barbara Winton say, quoting her father Sir Nicholas Winton: that we never learn.