The Last English Class

Julia Kaylock

The cracks have widened since my last visit.
I step over the stubborn weeds
rising from dark earth
admiring their audacity.

I find myself wishing I had brought my secateurs
to trim the limp rose bushes along the path;
but that would not go well for me
and Sefida would bear the brunt of it.

I knock timidly on the screen door.
She bustles me through the house,
past the room where he lies, snoring,
into the brightly lit kitchen.

There is to be a celebration.
A fairy-floss-veiled Persian cake
takes pride of place on the table
festively laid with colourful plates.

The money for the English classes
ran out weeks ago,
but I still edited her job applications
and bore witness to her determination.

Now, we are friends
who know too much
about each other's lives
to remain professionally neutral.
Instead, we maintain a voiceless pact
to tread lightly
on each other's fragility.

I need to be gone before
the others arrive.
In their persecution-hazed world
I am a government spy
instilling Western propaganda
into those who must show subservience.

Here, she says. I baked a special one for you.
A perfect mini version of the fairy floss cake
sits regally inside a bejewelled tin.
She closes the lid carefully
as I hold onto my gift,
and clasps her hands around mine.
We stand for a moment
in our strange embrace
gazing into each other's eyes,
reading the future.

I must go now;
on the veranda she whispers her news—
she has a job.
Just cleaning. It's a start.

We promise to stay in touch,
but, I suspect we won't;
We are standing, cliffs apart
Ready to stretch our wings, and fly
on to new horizons.

Contextual Essay: This poem, written in 2021, depicts a story that happened almost a decade earlier. The images are still clear in my mind as I remember my last meeting with Sefida and the impact her warmth and understanding had on me at the time. While I helped her to adjust to a new life, she helped me to imagine possibilities for my own.    

Julia Kaylock is a widely published poet who also occasionally writes prose. She is also an editor and publisher at Julia co-edited (with Denise O’Hagan) anthologies of poetry Messages from the Embers: from devastation to hope (Black Quill Press, 2020) and Poetry for the Planet: an anthology of imagined futures (Litoria Press, 2021). Her memoir in verse, Child of the Clouds was published in September 2021 (Litoria Press). Julia has worked as a career coach, counsellor, adult educator, journalist and feature writer. These days, assisting other writers to tell their stories is an honour and a privilege.



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