Brave new world

La.lit | March 23, 2015

Many Nepalis put great stock in bravery, seeing no irony in praising the bloodlust of Gurkhas in the same breath as they claim for themselves the apostle of non-violence, Gautam Buddha. Yet there is no braver feat, perhaps, than coming to terms with a new reality, and embracing it not wholeheartedly, but thoughtfully. In this extraordinarily precocious poem, which won the UK’s First Story writing contest recently, 13-year-old Mukahang Limbu does precisely that. Mukahang moved from Dharan to Oxford in 2007, and took his time settling down. ‘When I Came From Nepal’ may be our first glimpse of a talented poet. With Mukahang now enrolled in a residential writing course, it won’t be our last.

 

When I came from Nepal

 

When I came from Nepal

As I clutched my suitcase …

thick hot sweat

built in the slits

of my palms, which

shook holding its cool

metal brace. We walked

into day-winds, thick

as dried out paint

on unwashed canvas.

The sky was painted

daffodil yellow. The ground

was a dirty grey.

There was a metal bird:

an array of fearful,

forgotten paint.

Missing the feeling of home

I smell the iron rust

of the Municipal Gardens.

The sour tang of home still

sits on the tip of my tongue

like the zest of sweet citrus

fizzing.

I did not know

of grey, gravel roads,

or the bright buzzing

of scarlet cars.

I did not know

of lonely red-bricked houses,

gazing strangers,

standing next to next,

military officers, in endless rows.

I did not know

of silence in the streets,

or the secret whispers on the buses,

or the sly gestures of restaurants.

I know now

In this place

where I did not know,

the things I did not know

embrace me in ways

I didn’t know

 

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