Saturday, 10 October 2015

"It was difficult for me"

This particular poem has been a work in progress for quite some time. Well that's not strictly accurate; for most of that time it was simply the germ of an idea. It was inspired by the film making project I did with my St Chad's Sanctuary students - the same project that led to the "In their own words" posts before the summer. 

When telling her story, one of the students interspersed the account of her leaving her home, her journey, and her arrival in the UK with the phrase "it was difficult for me", and I was struck at the time by what a spectacular understatement that was when talking about leaving all she knew, crossing the channel in a lorry "like a freezer", and arriving in a place where she understood not one word of the language. 

Crossing the Mediterranean in an undoubtedly unseaworthy boat, and having to eat rice for her first days in the UK in the hostel, were treated to the same "It was difficult for me"; creating a strange equality between what seem to be incomparable experiences. I am struggling to explain, even to myself, why I found this equalising of the major and the minor oddly moving.

It was an understatement, no doubt, borne of not having the complexity of language it would need to even begin to express some of the horrors she had lived: and yet in it's understated simplicity it somehow, perhaps expressed more than a much richer vocabulary might be able to say (hasn't stopped me having a go though!) 

At 20, far from home
She has already etched 
So much of life
On pages torn and tattered

And here and now
She dares to tell
A story, her story
That echoes a million others
Yet speaks
Of a journey all her own

A tale which glows with warmth
At the tender memory of a homeland
And the riches of a culture
Scarred and scared
Yet deeply loved 
And deeply missed

In the midst of this
A narrative nightmare
Which does not flinch
Or turn away
From heavy truth
But speaks
With haunting honesty
Of the pain of loss and trembling fear
And bitter, biting cold

With these few words
The broken English stutter
Of a masterful understatement
“It was difficult for me”

But, pen poised, she knows
That this is not where the story ends
As with humble grace
She raises eyes of shining hope
To say 
I am happy to be here.
I am free.

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