The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Caroline Brogden.
A few weeks ago, I looked up from my book and started to weep. A memory of a boy I knew in Samos surfaced, unprompted, and sucker punched me on an unsuspecting January morning. I was taken aback by my own body’s reaction.
This kid is a real life Puck. Mischievous. Mirthful. Pure, unadulterated boy. In the photo, I’m going through ABC flashcards to transition from singing to coloring. (Talk about high energy. Most of the kids could sing the English alphabet already, which then, naturally, became a game of who could shout the letters the loudest.) Imagine it, 30 plus elementary age children and a handful of adults, howling nonsense songs as fires crackled and men scrounged for cardboard in the middle of a refugee camp in Greece. And Puck leaned back on the olive tree at the base of the hill where we ran kids’ activities, knowing he looked as cool as cool gets.
In all of the ethical ambiguity, this scene is just as confusing.
But this is not: it has never been harder or more worthwhile for me to love anyone than right there, watching Puck stretched by boundless energy. Here’s a poem borne out of that love.
Jafa’s in the tree again,
Jafa’s up high,
Jafa, jump down
And sing me a lullaby.
Habibi, I see you
And the smug look you can’t conceal.
You are king of this playground,
So I’ll make you a deal:
If you sit up on your branch
And uncross your arms,
I’ll make space on my lap
Won over by your gap toothed charms.
This is my offer,
Little boy in the lone olive tree.
No, you correct,
“Little man,” excuse me.
Suit yourself, and I wink,
Your playmates and I are caught up in tangles.
I sneak a peek at Your Majesty;
One leg dangles.
There’s no point in warning you,
Sprinting past in translation,
Be careful, I yell anyway, and
You land with thudding protestation.
My friend, you made it!
And my arms are open wide.
But a ruler has much to do,
Like monkeying around the hillside.
You whoop, and you holler,
And finally, you squirm over,
Extending a hand for a yellow crayon.
Never seated, but closer.
If it were up to me,
We’d fill in the whole world just as you’re doing:
Fearless, sweeping strokes
That mark borders and their undoing.
And it all has to be yellow,
The bumblebees, the rabbits, the faces,
So declares the triumphant scribbler
Master of the confines he outpaces.
Jafa’s on the move again,
Jafa said goodbye,
Jafa, sweet child,
I’m singing your lullaby.