‘How many of you live here?’
The man with the clipboard was asking.
Numbers are not my strong point
And I get a bit tongue-tied.
I reply, in a roundabout way:
‘Well, some, here and there;
Not many now;
Fewer than there used to be.’
‘Is that the best you can do?’
He snapped, looking peeved.
I slope off, inadequate,
Turning round, I see my old class teacher,
Who once told me that, despite everything,
He would still enjoy his long retirement.
The search teams must have missed him yesterday;
Foetal in his dusty infant stillness,
Just visible through the smouldering pile.
Adapted to this hell, I keep it short:
‘Subtract one from that,’ I cry,
Trying to be helpful.