Requiem sky

by | Jun 5, 2012 | Uncategorized | 10 comments

 This poem, for my dear old teacher who has just died, begins with a line from Cecilia’s blog
Besides bringing a small farm back to health in the U.S. prairies, Cecilia cares for the health of the old people nearby, with humour and tenderness.

‘Everybody needs an old person,’
she said.
And now you have slipped
into the earth of Parihaka*
where you learned the art
of peace
 Your voice was dark as molasses
Your eyes, firelight warm
Your laugh a bubbling broth
Your jokes corny
like my dad’s.
Your songs welled up
from a cavern of aroha.*
Everybody needs an old person
But you, my teacher,
Last of the line, are gone.
I am the old person now.

*Parihaka: famous for its passive resistance to invasion, led by Te Whiti, a prophet of peace, who practised non violence before the days of Ghandi.
* Aroha: the Maori word for love.


  1. Lynley

    The sky and the photos you have taken are so evocative of your deep, heavy sadness at the loss of your very special teacher.

    The light and high clouds speak of his warmth, his cocooning of children in school at a time of stark discipline and learning. But also that his light shines on from the heavens above.

  2. juliet

    Lynley, what a lovely full response. I took these photos of the late afternoon sky as I walked along the waterfront, the day after I heard of my teacher’s death. The sky seemed to mirror my feelings as well as the illumination of my teacher’s presence. You have understood this so well. Thank you.

  3. cecilia g

    Juliet, I am deeply honoured to have my words woven in to such a beautiful poem, such a full rich full flow river of love and thanks to your old teacher. Thank you and also if i may I would like to thank your old teacher for helping you grow to who you are now and thereby helping us along the way as well.. Rivers have tributaries.. c

  4. Hotly Spiced

    My father’s cousin married a Maori man and they had a daughter and called her Aroha. Sadly he was killed while doing his job as an electrician when she was just a toddler. I’m so sorry for your loss but that is a really beautiful and an oh-so-true poem – when the teacher moves on, the pupil must become the teacher! xx

  5. lifeonthecutoff

    Your words, pictures, and sentiments brought a tear to my eyes, Juliet, and also speaks to my own heart.

    We do become the teachers, don’t we, and you already are in your tender memories and tributes and in the way you have already taught us to go. Go to the bedside of those older and ailing and say thank you as you say goodbye.

    “Everybody needs an old person.” Wouldn’t that make a great writing assignment for all ages?

    Thank you, Juliet.

  6. juliet

    * Cecilia, thank you for your lovely comment. It’s a pleasure to pass on your words, which have been with me every day since I first read them. What a web of connections we have across the world.

    * Charlie, you know about aroha too, in more ways than one. Little do we realise, when we are eager pupils, that one day we will become the teacher. Thank you.

    * Penny, thank you for your understanding and for joining with me in this heart-felt event. The phrase ‘Everybody needs an old person’ will be with me forever now. A man on the news last night was speaking of his grief about his son who drowned in a boating accident. They’d had a falling out and hadn’t spoken for months. The father said, ‘keep talking. Never let this happen.’ Such a strong message.

  7. Lynley

    I love Cecilia’s comment that rivers have tributaries…..there is so much juice in that symbolism.

  8. juliet

    I love it too Lynley. And tributaries keep on spreading out.

  9. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Juliet – great post and comments – and I think little Mira will benefit hugely from her grandmama and her words of wisdom emanating from her teacher’s heart ..

    With many thoughts .. Hilary

  10. juliet

    Hilary, thank you. Yes, what is given ends up being passed on in so many ways. This is a very rich time.


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