Northwords Now Issue 36

The FREE literary magazine of the North

The Sixty-One

by Aileen West

One came in shyly and shook my hand without a smile.
Without the look or language of an oilman.
What he’d seen had made him fragile.
One of the sixty-one.

A wife stared at me with a reproachful eye.
Am I the enemy?  Do you think I’m someone?
He, nervous, fiddling with an unfamiliar tie.
Another of the sixty-one.

To some we were the enemy: “the Company”.
All full-blown and high-flown and on our throne
of money-saving villainy while they toil in agony.
What is left of the 288: the sixty-one.

One watched his mate as a fireball fall to the black water.
It plays in his head still and for always like a horror re-run.
Sleep has been denied him since the slaughter.
He wishes he was not one of the sixty-one.

Some carried openly their scars:  crutches, one in a wheelchair.
But none could hide the scarring of their minds: worn like a hand-me-down.
With shame and hurt of unfairness: an ongoing mental warfare.
Those who think they survived: the sixty-one.

For one, it was all about production, the pipes and a valve,
A Geordie with the jargon: notebooks full of denial when he was done.
All a sort of insanity, his conscience to salve
because he became one of the sixty-one.

More broke down reliving the 8th July.
Tears dissolved the strokes of my Pitman
as they sobbed in their effort to reply.
Guilty at being one of the sixty-one.

One felt he was there for blame,
detecting in his interview a certain undertone,
My pages peppered with “sue” and “claim”
He hurt, that one of the sixty-one.

Only one came escorted with an entourage,
New counsellor, new love and new lawyer riding shotgun.
Grandstanding performance betraying too much reportage.
The one famous one of the sixty-one.

Harrowing but an honour to be the stenographer
Recording the words and wounds of each father or son
who survived their worst night.  THEIR Piper Alpha.
All sixty-one of the sixty-one.