I am your light Brilliance in the winter sky Joy in my sister’s face As she giggles Presses on The snowman’s button eyes I am your light Headlamps gently guide Any distance Diversion Spot the potholes in the road We ride together I still know my way home I am your light Your faith Your Christmas tree bulbs Your shimmering crescent Your Hannukah candles I am Diwali Celebrate me Feast with me Shine with me I am your light Moonbeams on the river Rushes quilt the ducklings To Nightingale’s lullaby Beaver starts his nightshift Magic in the air The scene feels like an illusion But trust the owl, she knows It’s real You’re not dreaming Skim a pebble in the moonlight I’ll skim you a precious stone I am your light Your rainbow Seven party streamers Sing across the sky Fly above the jet plane The swallow, the cuckoo Seven vivid colours One for every day That I miss you My light burns eternal I frame the shadow on the wall Create the pixels in the picture The dancers’ curtain call Olympic Torch for athletes Fizzing Catherine wheel Dog’s illuminated collar X-ray to help heal Bulb in your bedside lamp So when drowsiness marks the page Switch me off But remember If your dream’s not the one you wished for Or loneliness gets too much Just reach out I’m close enough to touch I am your light My star A speck across the galaxies To show Without me Your universe Could never be The universe you know
Crikey. This site’s supposed to be easy to use, but I always struggle. I suppose with computers, there comes a point where you’ve either got it or you haven’t. I’ve been dealt a pretty good hand in life, so I guess I can live with it.
And on the theme of the hand life deals you, I’ve actually sat down to write something about this week’s activities in schools for Refugee Week. Poetry workshops. Eight schools in Birmingham (8 primary, 2 secondary) and around 400 children, all of whom gave it their best shot at imagining being a refugee, or, in the case of quite a few, writing about really being a refugee or migrant.
I’ve long since suspected that pound for pound, children are far more open-minded and tolerant than adults. I’m now sure this is the case. 400 children aged 8-13 worked solidly for 2-3 hours and not once did I hear a word of the tired old racism propounded by the readers of our more ignorant newspapers. Discussions were measured, listening was attentive, and, crucially, those who disagreed with a point of view did so with respect, rather than dismissal. The work which was begun in our sessions (to be completed with the children’s class teachers) also showed a depth of perception which many outside the school system wouldn’t expect.
So, what did we do?
We looked at elephants! To be precise, David Attenborough’s ‘Spy in the Herd’, where a herd moves as they have no food. This necessity to move, making the elephants refugees, rather than migrants. (In all of the schools, the children understood this difference. I wonder what percentage of the adult population would get this right, or even think it important?)
Although it wasn’t the main focus of the project, as an English teacher, I wanted this work to enhance and reinforce literacy, so from the clip, we came up with some WOW words (one of my favourite phrases) to describe the feelings of the baby elephant as it was on the move. We then went on to looking at how the pachyderms’ (WOW word!) was a metaphor for human refugees.
This was followed by some clear and confident reading of a couple of my poems on the subject, and then the children planned their own and began to write them. This gave an opportunity to revise poetic terms learned, and they only needed a few thousand reminders that POEMS DON’T HAVE TO RHYME, AND ARE OFTEN BETTER WHEN THEY DON’T!!!!! And did this stop a few brave/silly souls from doing it anyway? Rhetorical question!
The aim of this work was to raise awareness of what it’s like to be a refugee. To be honest, the schools had done a pretty good job of this anyway (one school has used a classroom to make a mock-up of a refugee camp; another has written postcards of support to give to refugees). As I wanted expression and empathy to be the keynotes, pupils who have a second language were allowed to write in that language if was easier for them, or if it simply suited them better. Some work came out which sounded beautifully soulful, even to those of us who didn’t understand the words.
Once the teachers send me some of the finished work, it’ll be posted with due acknowledgement of authorship.
Hopefully, this will be repeated next year and rolled out to schools elsewhere in the country.
Meanwhile, I give heartfelt thanks to
About 400 children
Numerous teaching and teaching assistant colleagues
Carl Marshall and Razia Butt from Birmingham City Council
Schools of Sanctuary for supporting this project…
… and especially Barbara Forbes from Schools of Sanctuary who enthused about this from the moment I floated the idea, obtained the funding for it to take place, and put me in contact with her contact in the schools. Without Barbara, this really wouldn’t have happened.
Now for the hard part. Can I publish this without deleting it instead?
My Second City
My second city
Is called the Second City
It’s very different from my first
From date palms
To packaged dates
From cows swishing flies
To a bronze bull
Girls in jeans
I wonder what that word means?
Safe new friends
A school with books
Free bus rides, with unfriendly looks
Everything’s sort of clean and neat
Just don’t even think of stepping out in bare feet
A sanctuary with a leaky roof
My shiny blue raincoat drips daily proof
My Second City gives me every little thing I need
When I think of my first city
I laugh and I laugh and I laugh
Until it hurts
In my Second City
But we wait and wait and wait and wait
For permission to unpack ourselves and stay
I’m really sure I’d like to stay
Perhaps for a few more days