Having in last issue’s poetry page On Boundaries explored divisions between people, here we celebrate how the English language can help people through loneliness and isolation to friendship. In ‘Find a Friend in English’, Shizhou Yang writes of how as a second language English helped a child bloom in a way not possible in the first, while in ‘I am not a thief’ Jennifer Bell shows how it facilitated a friendship between strangers even after, or perhaps because of, the most unlikely of opening gambits.
Find a Friend in English
I was an awkward child at school –
for I could not speak Mandarin;
at home, I seldom spoke –
for a kid was to be seen not heard.
So I withered like a winter grass
whispered in me,
my blades and bitter root,
a message of eternal love.
‘I am not a thief.’
I followed my dream alone to classrooms in Peru
Full of energetic students learning EFL.
I was living my dream
But I was alone.
I lived in a house where no English was spoken
Where my literary Spanish had to carry me through.
I longed to explore the city, but I was again told ‘next weekend’
Until I realized ‘next weekend’ was just like ‘tomorrow.’
So I braved the streets of Lima, alone.
Alone I went exploring
Until in the center of Lima
A stranger came up to me and said,
‘Wait — I am not a thief.’
I listened to him talk, and we became friends.
Together we explored the catacombs under the ground
And the highest point in Lima for a spectacular view.
We traveled, took a boat,
Visited museums, danced with friends
And I was no longer alone.
No longer alone
Because I’d found a friend
Who taught me the city.
And he was not a thief.