A Tale of Two Cities (The Rich and the Towerful)
Add to My Calendar

It was the best of times
and the worst of times
And the north of the borough
gets the worst
Because of accidents of birth
and because that's just the way it works
And yes, you guessed,
The south gets the best
And the rest of the country
had only registered
that Kensington had a proletariat
when it shocked the commentariat
by electing a Labour MP
Five nights before
a fire on the fourth floor
spread faster and further 
than it was supposed to do
And grew from its room
and consumed
a towerful of humans

The rich and the powerful
were unscorched, untorched
They went untouched
unburned, unburdened
by losing pretty much
Everything

Until then, most folk thought
that Kensington hosted
mostly royals and millionaires
Not the toilers, just the heirs
and your-graces
in palaces and similar places
And with more money than you could possibly know what to do with

And skeletons.
They knew that Kensington had skeletons
Skeletons in its museums
Skeletons in its graveyards
And now the skeleton of
what hundreds used to call home
Calls out the skeletons
from the cluttered cupboards
in the Town Hall
Stubborn behind a firewall
a smokescreen
wiped clean
Where the dinosaurs of class rule,
the bores and the fools,
Rush and stomp around
crushing lesser life forms 
into the ground

The rich and the powerful
tightened our belts
but not their own
And a towerful of people
lost their life
or their home

The rich don't live in tower blocks
or social housing stocks
When they reside in tall buildings
they are called 'luxury developments'
with opulent embellishments
and 'panoramic views'
From the penthouse
the not-cheap-to-rent house
nor a worn and spent house
High fliers in high rises
at high prices
High status in high places

They don't live in flats
They live in apartments
They live apart
in fire-resistent compartments
with state-of-the-art smoke alarms
And so they should.
They're entitled to a fire escape
a comfortable place
a safe space
to live
But so is everyone else

You can be sure
that every apartment on every floor
has a sprinkler system
And if they have cladding
then it's gilded wrapping
with all the trappings
Not lined with aluminium
better than the bare minimum
the second-best
failed-the-test
discounted price
discount the concerns
about how fast it burns
Skinflint
say they're skint
Cheap as chips
and about as good for you
Off the back of a lorry
and onto the walls
of the towers in the sky
where common people come to live
and die

The rich and the powerful
get their riches and their power
from the labours
Of the towerful
and their neighbours
and others like them
Like us

The first-named dead
had fled
a war zone
And wanted to go home
when the war was done
He was learning skills
to help rebuild
But he was killed
under enemy fire

People die like this
when people live like this
Stuffed into boxes
in tower blocks
put up on the cheap
Putting up people
keeping the least
possible cost
Per life lost
Per square metre or square feet
of prime real estate
a drain on the rates

People die like this
because people are made to live like this
by a system that gives
only to the few
Not a civilised living
to the likes of you
A system like this
run by spivs for hire
who wouldn't piss on you
if you were on fire

It's working-class people who die like this:
racist arson in New Cross
unsafe station at King's Cross
thirteen and thirty-one lives lost
respectively
Fifty-six at Bradford's game
six in Lakaner House's flames
in Camberwell
And now Grenfell
where as far as we can tell
the death toll
may yet reach a level
higher than all those put together

It's always the people in the cheap seats
in steerage
The lower orders
in the servants' quarters
The back stairs
the disrepairs
The slum colony
travelling through life in economy class
The wage slaves not the masters
The underclassers

The rich and the powerful
remain in power
while a towerful of humanity
and compassion and family
and talent and potential
of working-class folk
goes up in smoke

And what of those who run this system?
The decision-takers
policy-makers
The architects of TMOs
and ALMOs
and scrapping
rent capping
Right to Buy
and buy-to-let
and let's get by
with whatever we can get
A roof over your head
a bed
A home not fit for habitation
voted down the legislation
Closed the fire station

And when David Cameron declared
a 'bonfire of red tape'
he really meant it
His New Year resolution
a revolution
His ultimatum -
and I quote verbatim -
'To kill off the health and safety culture for good'.

Compassion fakers
quick to forsake us
In Westminster or Kensington
Hold the line
then resign
Anything to avoid responsibility
anything to pass the blame
Heads must roll
Heads must hang in shame

The rich and the powerful
give the victims the body swerve
They've got a nerve
While the towerful get donations
from neighbours and strangers
that fill the community centre shelves
from those just a little more fortunate than themselves

The rich and the powerful
close the doors
in the faces of you and yours
To talk about the towerful
to sanitise the cause
of death and destitution
on twenty-four floors