To celebrate National Poetry Day, we are delighted to share a beautiful poem that deservedly won our S5 Poetry Prize, called ‘All My Homes in the Garage’ by one of our incredibly talented pupil writers, Asirini P (S6).
In this piece, which was also submitted to the Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award, Asirini reflects on her “cultural identity and how it’s a product of all the places I’ve moved to across Sri Lanka and Scotland.”
“I try to cling to my old identity, though I no longer fit in with the native Sri Lankan ways of thinking. And though my schooling is Scottish, parts of this identity still feel alien.”
“I’m a mix of two different identities, but through wanting both, I can’t properly identify with either culture anymore. I’m trapped in an in-between place – the garage.”
We hope you all enjoy this beautiful and powerful poem by Asirini.
All My Homes in the Garage
The garage is full of my fourteen homes.
All shoved neatly into boxes and bags and trunks.
Amid them are mites of will o' the wisps,
or the last of Tambapanni in shining specks.
I find Serendipity there often,
though the trip is now memorised.
A weekly ritual, a daily unpacking of memories,
lest I forget the song words that will never get me employed,
or how they sound like calls of birds
and how my grandma would mutter them to parrots
as they flew past our balcony at sunset.
But here and there’s a hint of haggis
that is sometimes a stench,
And other times a home coming,
for the wee coconut who had irn bru for the first time,
and was confused.
There’s mould on one box, with three toys from my first nursery.
I remember sailing a paper boat, along a paddy field canal.
I’m sure it passed under the steepled hands of rice stalks,
but sometimes the paddy, heavy green thunderstorms,
and the balconies of rainbow homes,
Become a squinty bridge.
This boat is just as real.
As real as I am on a creaking suitcase against cold brick.
As real as the Clyde beneath me,
as it roars with kelpies,
and harsh homely words I don’t yet understand.
A red ribbon, a blue cardigan, a black blazer, and white shorts,
rest in my too big hands and a too small bag.
Now, they clash with my navy tights and pearled hair.
I wore each with a different tongue.
The short sleeves spoke of cold winters, and unicorns, and radiators.
The jumpers whispered of elephants, and shark curry, and air conditioners.
I would like to wear them both.
I would like to bury the fact that my boxes of rainforests are old and few,
and that if my life were measured in years and not striking memories,
I would only be as exotic,
as the Sinhala paintings my mother made on Scottish linen yesterday.
But I will sprinkle my trunks of kilts with golden sand,
and I will fall for using David Hume’s cynicism
on musty diaries written 5550 miles away,
when I was a batik-wearing bairn,
and spoke exclusively to my journals and the moon.
Because I am human,
and it is easy to judge what now seems a dream against my education.
To question bows, and prayers, and ways of thought,
simply because I only know them from halfway remarks
and half-remembered temple visits.
Maybe, I didn’t have a garage to sit in on the other side of the oceans.
But I doubt I’ll leave this one until my next life.
Because the worlds out there feel far too unreal.
Too polarised and monolingual.
I’d much prefer to stay here,
discovering and rediscovering,
the Serendipity of my Hame,
and who I am.
- Will o’ the wisp – A light in Scottish folk lore that would seem to recede and lead unwary travellers to the fae people.
- Tambapanni - A name previously given to Sri Lanka, my motherland. Tambapanni also means golden sand and refers to the story of when Sri Lanka’s first king, King Vijaya, landed on the shores of the island and exclaimed that it was a land with golden sand. He then named his kingdom “golden sands” in Sanskrit which is Tambapanni. Sri Lanka’s golden sands are still a great national pride.
- Serendipity - Also an old name for Sri Lanka. Dutch sailors called it that because when they were stuck in a deadly tropical storm, they happened to land on the shores of Sri Lanka by accident which saved them from drowning. That story is where the English meaning of serendipity (unexpected good luck) comes from.
- Coconut- A derogatory word used by members of the South Asian migrant community to refer to someone who has become "too westernized". As in, brown on the outside, white on the inside.
- Paddy- What rice is called before it is ripened, and its husk is removed
- Paddy field- Rice field.
- Rainbow homes- Most people in Sri Lanka build their own homes and try to be very individual, so you often get quite disorienting neighbourhoods where one person paints their walls neon orange and the next person has painted theirs a pastel pink and so on.
- Squinty Bridge- What Glaswegian school kids call the Clyde Arc.
- Kelpies- A waterhorse in Scottish folklore with skin that is made of sticky mud. It gets unwary children to touch its mane, and when they’re trapped it goes beneath the water and drowns them.
- Batik- Fabric with colourful patterns made by applying wax to the parts of the cloth you don’t want to dye. Sri Lankan Batik is very traditional and usually has one vibrant colour and black to make ornate patterns.
- David Hume – Famous Scottish Philosopher who is known for his system of scepticism and for questioning religious thought that has stood for centuries.
- 5550 miles – The approximate distance from Edinburgh to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.
- Bairn- Scots word for child.
- Until my next life- A Buddhist saying that refers to my religious background.
- Hame- Scots word for home.