Young Poet;Big Apple;Poem by Shamima Begum

1st October 1999 at 01:00
It's warm in the airport

But I shiver at the thought

Of landing in London.

I want my Gap top,

Packed in the suitcase 11 hours ago.

The smell of aftershave lingers

On me

After saying my good-byes

To the bodyguards

Total strangers nine days ago.

We hide our faces under

Our newly given NYPD caps.

Under your Nike brim

You come and hold me,

Your tears wet my shoulder.

From the wing side window, a glimpse

Of the light speckled city.

Only days ago

The trees were bombing

Red and golden leaves.

A soggy tissue in my hand.

Just in case.

Shamima Begum

I particularly like the way in which Shamima Begum creates a sense of mystery by alluding to a story without telling it; 'the 'bodyguardsTotal strangers nine days ago' and the 'newly given NYPD caps'. A tearful goodbye at the airport doesn't sound like a promising subject for a poem, but here it works admirably because of the added drama, because of the poem's restraint and the economical use of carefully-chosen detail. 'A soggy tissue in my handJust in case', for example, is so much more powerful and suggestive than naming, or attempting to describe, the emotion. It is often said that good writing should show, not tell; 'Big Apple' demonstrates the truth of this.

Cliff Yates

Shamima Begum, aged 17, receives 'Emergency Kit' edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney. Submitted by Jane Anderson, Morpeth School, London, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send students' poems, preferably not more than 20 lines long, to 'The TES', Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Cliff Yates is deputy head of Maharishi School, Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and Poetry Society poet-in-residence for secondary education. He has published 'Jumpstart: Poetry in the Secondary School' (The Poetry Society) and 'Henry's Clock' (SmithDoorstop). The 'TES Book of Young Poets' (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column with an introduction by Sian Hughes , can be ordered by phoning 0145 4 6 17370. A set of four posters is availalable at pound;3.99.

Shamima Begum

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