Requiem by Simone de Almeida
Online - 13 April 2020
an appreciation by Matthew Grierson
Though our attention is now rightly focused on one clear and present crisis, other global emergencies remain ongoing – and the poem Requiem by twelve-year-old Simone de Almeida, a prize-winner in Arts Richmond’s Young Writers competition, is a salutary reminder of the changing climate.
It’s a poem that contrasts big abstracts – ‘fragmentary quandaries’ – with urgent particulars – ‘ice melting’, but which still manages to turn an image of despair into one of hope with the suggestion of frozen hearts warming together. In the connection they make before ‘falling apart’, it even finds an unexpected resonance in the lockdown, when environmental activists are having to take to their keyboards rather than the streets to get their message out.
The grown-up world of ‘desires’, ‘promises’ and ‘smiles’ is seen through as ‘counterfeit’, and shown simply as a children’s pastime, ‘Hide and seek’. The narrator is therefore able to turn dismissive accusations back on the accuser, pithily responding with ‘We are the future/But you cannot perceive it yet’ in contrast to the clear-sightedness of the young.
She also demonstrates an eye for the paradoxes and hypocrisies of political cant, finding grim irony in ‘Losing sanity,/To find yourself’, and skewering talk of ‘The last time – / Though we’ve heard it countless times’. When the adults can’t tell you ‘we’ll be fine – / In the darkness of [their] silence’, the generation to come must have their say – as this poem does.
Photography by Joe Stockwell
The Future Speaks