Death Trap Tower

By Mark Marusic
Affordable housing poetry Right Now

Inferno tower,
life and death
follow art,
and often to
an altered script.
Public housing
high rise block
in London’s west,
opened same year
as the filmic
San Fransisco
office building
went to blazes;
cut-price
dodgy contracts –
a tale of caution screened.

Then in 2017,
a two city tale
within a London suburb,
poverty pocket
in zone of affluence,
where homes are ‘properties’,
many empty,
some of these
well-heeled neighbours
look up with scorn
at the poor among them:
“if we must have them here,
their hovels could
at least be cladded,
and we could pretend
that they’re respectable
apartments.”

Sure, its insulation
would be welcomed,
in a city often cold –
but at what cost
for five years warmth
this cladding gave –
a slap-up job,
cheap and deadly nasty,
a dead-set fire spreader.
A block so huge
with safety problems,
ill-equipped
for fighting fires,
extinguishers
long unchecked,
some expired,
just one exit point,
sprinklers – none,
a death trap waiting . . .

Residents appealed
to governors,
national and local,
yielding only
ticks of boxes
and threats of defamation.
But infamy
shall ever be
upon the powers
that seemed more brutal
than the concrete.

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