October 21, 2017 marked the 51st anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary in 2016, Welsh poets Grahame Davies and Tony Curtis were commissioned to write a Sequence of poems, entitled Aberfan Voices, each poem with a photograph by I. C. Rapoport.
Both Tony and Grahame are serving as humanities scholars for my project Aberfan. I am deeply honored and grateful for their participation in its unfolding and fullest expression. Over the next few posts I will share their work. “Where I Was” by Tony Curtis:
Where I was
Where were you when the old King died?
Walking to the pit-head with my butties.
Where were you for the Peace in Our Time?
In the parlour with Delyth and her mother’s new wireless.
Where were you when the bombers came?
Holding the hand of a Bevin Boy in the shivering dark.
Where were you when the war ended?
In the bath before our fire, hearing the church bells.
Where were you for the Coronation?
A mile underneath her kingdom.
Where were you when they put a dog in space?
What about the missiles in Cuba?
We was well out of reach in the Merthyr Vale: already buried.
Where were you when the President was shot?
Checking my lamp and opening my snap.
And where were you when you heard about Aberfan?
Mid-shift, working at the face, blinded with dust that the tears
Began to wash, and the mandrel dropped
As my fists clenched, and I heard
The distant howls of men.
On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.
Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Photo IC Rapoport, 1966