Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The first day

There are some wonderful authors with immense talent and an amazing command of the English language: but if the magic of stories is in the possibility to paint pictures which draw others in, and to elicit a rainbow of emotions from your listener, then it turns out you can be a master story-teller long before you have the command of grammatical tense.

I know I am hugely privileged to have heard the stories of so many remarkable people, and to have heard them told with honesty, emotion and good humour.

One of my students recently recounted his journey to and first day in the UK. He told of experiences no-one should ever live through. And yet, it was told, sprinkled with touches of humour and with a smile almost always on his lips: and as I listened, horrified, with tears in my eyes ... I laughed.

I think it was OK to laugh, because I knew we were laughing together. Thank you M. I am honoured to call you my friend.

With hands which danced
Over these,
The studied words
Of a language not his own

These outstretched hands
And winning smile
Which spoke in truths
And offered up
A story and a life

And invited us
To laugh

And as he told
Of hands clasped tight
Around searing rods
Of fingers, bent and burned
From clinging on
To life itself

And as I listened
With hands clenched tight
The shame of a nation
Daring to deny
His only hope

Somehow we laughed

And as he told
Of ears which closed
Against the haunting roar
Of deafening sounds
should ever have to hear

And as I recognised
How possible it was
For ears 
to strain for the familiar
In a language that did not match
The school book scripts 

Again we laughed

And as I half-heard
A tale of pain and fear and loss
In simple-spoken truths
And the self-depreciating humour
Of survival

And as he shared
That defining moment
 The unfettered, still-remembered joy
Of a dawning realisation
I am free

Once more we laughed

And as he stops
And turns to thank
My countrymen and me
I wish he knew
How much he brings

These outstretched hands
And winning smile
Which offer up
This lesson to our humanity
This timely reminder

Of how to

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