Poetry Friday: English Lessons with a Tibetan Refugee Ex-Monk

February 6th, 2009

This week’s poem is an original from Lucy Tobin.

The idea for this poem originated in Dharmsala, India where I was teaching English to two Tibetan men, both of the whom, until recently, had been monks. Since they were at a fairly advanced English level, I gave them vocabulary words to use in sentences. I quickly found that their sentences were emotionally powerful and it reminded me what deep life experiences English language learners possess behind the struggle to learn a new language.

English Lessons with a Tibetan Refugee Ex-Monk

Praise: to show approval or admiration.
My family praise me much when I was monk.

Irrevocable: not able to be changed or reversed.
What mean reversed?
Like when a car drives backwards.
Ah. I change my life not be monk. I think it irrevocable.

Remorse: deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed.
It is best be monk. Now I remorse.
But won’t it be wonderful to get married and have children?
Of course will be wonderful, but monk is always better.

Permanent: lasting forever, not changing.
I miss my mother permanent.

Nostalgic: longing for the happy times of the past.
My father he nostalgic always wish for century life.
Century life?
We say this for days when Tibet was peace.

Profound: very great or intense; severe.
I wish love someone profoundly in my life.

Delusion: a belief or impression that is not real.
I delusion India was like Tibet.
I delusion will see my mother again.

Homesick: missing one’s home during a period of absence.
All Tibetans, all refugee, homesick.

Humble: having or showing a low estimate of one’s own importance.
I think all Buddhists humble.
Sorry. That not a Buddhist way to say.

When did you become a monk?
When I eleven years I become monk. I cry every night first year, say
I want to go home.
When I eighteen come to India for learn the English and be near Dalai Lama.

Do you feel regret?
What mean?
Do you think coming to India was a good idea?
But I think life so strange, the way how quick it change.

Entry Filed under: Poetry Friday

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mary Lee  |  February 7th, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Wow. Thanks for sharing this!

  • 2. fred gordon  |  February 7th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    The Lucy Tobin poem is beautiful, a deeply felt piece. The rhythm of the questions/answers is musical and in perfect voice. A wonderful poem!

  • 3. Jet  |  February 7th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    This is an amazing piece of found poetry. Thanks so much for writing it . . . and sharing it.


  • 4. Carolyn  |  February 8th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    This is a very moving poem. Lucy is incredibly masterful in using this poetic structure to portray feelings and reminiscences. The voice is so authentic. Thank you for sharing this.

  • 5. ellie berner  |  February 10th, 2009 at 11:19 am

    A great poem enriches the way one thinks about things. Lucy Tobin has written such a poem. This poem should be widely read and passages like the charming, “Humble” quoted…l am excited to hear her voice.

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