‘Aqsal al Awal’ by Sabah Hussein

Last month, First Story was honoured to hold an event at the House of Lords, kindly hosted by Baroness Hogg. The night featured a powerful speech by Rory Stewart MP, who spoke about his personal relationship with writing and its importance for young people.  The event was an opportunity to spread the word about National Writing Day – our campaign to get everyone, everywhere writing, launched with the support of Old Possums Practical Trust, Arts Council England and our partners across the country. First Story alumna, Sabah Hussein, impressed the whole audience by reading her very moving piece ‘Aqsal al Awal‘ (which is Arabic for First Story).

Aqsal al Awal‘ by Sabah Hussein

Our minds are fizzy,
dwindling, turning
Writers feeding us lines
sunlight to plant shoots
Our pens, a conversation on paper
Feet, a conversation with carpet

It is 6am and I am
walking. Guilt etched onto my
skin because my 5:05 alarm
woke up my roommate, and

I pass staff, chirping
“morning” as she pushes her
food-filled trolley, her
white hair escaping from
her netted cap it is dancing
to a different tune, a
reckless serenade
from the last time
I saw her, I am

Out and a little bunny
and her child are
scurrying, they stop
perched, looking
around to see if
I’m a threat and I
stamp anyway, not because
I’m a threat, but because I
could be. Finally,

I am here sitting, a circle
of leaves surround me and
though my head is still
buzzing, unorganised
with experiments from
both science and literature,
I take a deep breath. And

breathe, away from
the cigarette skylines, deep
from my hips like
my mama said

Then, I realise:
I owe this to
Aqsal al Awal, teaching me
grammar and comma
placements, showing me
that sometimes
(just sometimes)

Colours described as
cars are better than
cars described through
colours, now

The trees around me
become wooden
tables, my
thoughts become the
future, and I am
thrown three years back

To the beginning of
this story, the first
time I sat there between
two friends, cakes

litter the tables and
I know I wasn’t there
because of
“Gifted and Talented”
but I
don’t care, lines

Coming from
Courttia Newland
sow themselves onto
our desks, encouragements
plastered on the walls
reminding me of homes and
fridges, now

I am standing in the circled
grass area and I
have so much to
say, so much to
be grateful for so

Thank you.


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