Posted in General Interest

All White Then Black

(for the fifty-two who lost their lives on 7th July 2005 and for many more than seven hundred, who live on with their physical and mental scars)

He took a seat and let the blond girl stand,
and thought about his selfishness, but then
he cast aside his worries for a while.
It seems these days that chivalry requires
that men do other things to prove there worth
sitting whilst she stood was no big deal

…until it went all black and white.

Arriving at the platform just in time
she blessed her luck as, late for work, she knew
this was an omen for the day and augured
well. In tune, her vigorous health enhanced
by brand new trainers bought the day before
and which were such good fit and comfortable

…until it went all black and white.

A City Engineer from Derbyshire
who’d built a walk that clung a cliff-side way
was visiting the city on that day;
a day that saw him on a crowded train,
when he would rather stand and walk about
than stare at someone else’s shirt hang out!

…until it went all black and white.

A software engineer, who had a squint,
would be the one without a single thought
against, or for the men who’d wrung the night
from day that left him still and motionless.
He was just numb, devoid of any feeling;
defied the normal human call to blame,

until it went all white, then black…

A blinding flash of incandescent light
so rapidly reduced the day to night
and left them all completely without sight
of anything but stench of soot and blood
no screams, just moaning and a plaintive cry
for help..

please help,

please help,

please help,

please help.

Trembling in the court, his stoney face
belied the trauma and the weight of guilt
that he’d survived and she had not. But then
her brother laid a hand upon his shoulder
“she was full of fun and wanted friends
like you, to carry all her joy through life.”

Vivaciously recounting her experience;
how she was looking up at her new trainer
on the ceiling… that it seemed quite strange
to her, who at the time was lain. Then she,
as they unwrapped her leg from round the handrail,
released a scream that drew her rescuer’s blood.

A fellow passenger closed the lids
of eyes that could no longer see the world,
of which he could not take a further part,
to dignify, in his truncated end.
Alone, that one gesture made a lifetime’s stress
seem like a moment’s insignificance.

The squint came from a shin-splint in his eye,
like shattered lives that shattered bones release
a hell, for which no-one can be prepared.
And where the bomber’s other parts did go,
only forensic analysis will know.
For those who live, the memory lives on.

The painful wait, amid an infinite darkness
Everything was black and white, only
the blood was vivid red. Random limbs
were strewn, and resting on projecting bone
he’d tried to comfort one who needed help.
The girl who sat behind the bomber survived…

…and who wonders with astonishment
at the human body’s resilience
under such extraordinary shock
that blasted minds beyond their comfort zone
and made so many individuals,
in one small shocking instant…

…become just one.

© 2012 John Anstie

First published on 10th July 2012 in ‘My Poetry Library’ and in the anthology, “Petrichor Rising” in July 2013.

For those with a specific interest in poetry, once again, I was drawn to write this poem in Blank Verse, William Shakespeare’s favoured format for speeches. I think it is such a good way to tell a story and I especially dare think, perchance to dream, of any number of great Shakespearean actors reading it… I wish. You can also read the background to this poem at ‘Forty Two‘ ]



JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).



51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.



“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”

11 thoughts on “All White Then Black

  1. Very personal, which makes it quite intriguing as a story…and compels me to look up more information about these London bombings. (Not as familiar to me as the 9/11 USA terrorist attacks, but seems similar in many ways.)


  2. Wow. I think you perfectly captured how one moment can change things forever. The blink of a cosmic eye, and everything changed. Thank you for posting this. I know it is about an event that happened years ago, but these kinds of things are still happening with too much frequency, and I think that people are becoming desensitized to it. Poems like this help fight that desensitization and show people that it is, unfortunately, all too real. Hyper-real, almost. Especially for those poor souls who lived through it. I think first person was the perfect choice for it.


  3. This was beautifully written.
    You have captured this horrific moment wonderfully by building up to it with the ordinary thoughts of ordinary people moments before a life changing disaster. …
    I was moved by this.


  4. Hey, thank you to all of you who have taken the trouble to read this poem, which was constructed rather more carefully than many of mine, from the historical facts of the event. Thank you for your encouraging comments too and sorry for the late response.


    1. Thank you, Niamh. It didn’t feel particularly brave, so much as having a great a responsibility to represent the facts with as much integrity as possible and be honest in the revelation of the feelings and emotions described by those, who were directly affected by this tragedy.


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