Grenfell by Steve McQueen: a response poem

Grenfell (2019). Image © All rights reserved.

I come out of the tube at High Street Kensington
on Saturday 6 May.
It is a rainy day,
the traffic is sparse,
the usual city-dwellers on the streets.
Police sirens,
I am reminded of the coronation 3 miles away.

I enter Kensington Gardens.
A crow baths in rain water.
I walk up and towards the gallery.
I read on its wall,
“Steve McQueen makes sure that Grenfell will never be forgotten.”

We fly high and across residential land.
This is London.
We arrive at Grenfell Tower.
No words, no sound,
immeasurable silence.

Naked steel windows.
Grenfell is deserted.
Debris-filled plastic sacks and scaffoldings
replace human ashes.
Forensics in white PPE scattered around the crime scene.

Grenfell is coal black, burnt.

Filmed 6 months after the tragic fire,
we are guided by the light of the afternoon sun,
where once was life,
sunlit drapes on the walls
at magic hour,
soft shades of glorious plant leaves…
These are no more.

There’s only death.


How can this be possible?
Warnings were alarmed.
It was not an accident.
72 lives lost.

Seventy-two human beings,
Londoners, siblings, mothers, fathers,
seventeen kids, an unborn child,
died in the fire.


We go around another panoramic look.
Look again.
The accomplishment of crime.

The killing of Grenfell community.
Unfulfilled dreams burnt by corporate myths and neglect.
The burnt cladding,
a carnivorous, now snake-looking relief.

What was once the heart of a community,
the heart of new beginnings,
burnt remains of the tower rises
where human beings
once lived.
Irreplaceable lives lost
a grotesque tragedy,
of towering xenophobia
and governmental impunity.
A divided London.

We fly like burnt souls
until we’re woken up to the urban soundscape:

We will never forget Grenfell.

14 June 2023 marks 72 months since 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.
Grenfell United

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