We shrugged at bomb scares at school
Locked our doors, watched our bags and our steps
And skirted any lone bag on a bench.
These were the years of lead, after all.
The violence that edged things was rising
And life was getting a ragged quality to it.
The heart was falling out of the city
Its famous walls bulged with sanctioned corruption
Handshakes and deals that never happened.
So when a famous politician was kidnapped
And held hostage for fifty-five days,
We’d run out of shock, so to speak.
Yet his heavy-lidded resignation dragged at our hearts
As a mugshot released grainy proof that he was, still, alive
And his letters of appeal went public.
‘In truth,’ he wrote, ‘I feel a little abandoned…’
The government, curiously, was implacable:
Its refusal – this time! – to negotiate for one of their own
Was cold and hard as marble.
Not the supplications of family and friends
Nor the offer of papal intervention
Stemmed the inevitable, blossoming horror.
To the wail of sirens and a thickening crowd
His bloody, bullet-studded body was found
Chained and crumpled in the boot of a Renault
And dumped in the centre of Rome.
The symbolism was callously clear:
A sacrifice had been laid at a political altar
But by whom?
Then was the time of recriminations and allegations
Of tip-offs unfollowed and other inexplicable revelations
Strikes, demonstrations, and calls for resignations
Spawning ever more accusations
Which clung like mist to the men in black suits
And shadowed the stretching of the years ahead.
(Note: In 1978 the leader of the ruling Christian Democrats, Aldo Moro, was murdered in Rome by the Red Brigades. His ‘historic compromise’ would have been the first Communist representation in a Western European government.)