The open gate welcomed me. My first step led me on an old path. At the end of the path stood the church framed in time. As I crossed the stone porch and entered the church, history and memories poured out into the present. There were already people in the pews as I chose a back seat. I recognised a teacher as he came to sit on my left. He used to teach French and French literature at St Andrews School.
As I listened to him, my soul captured his brilliant mind unveiling grace and virtue. I also recognised my home economics teacher on the front pew. No wrinkles no worries. The same gait the same voice the same beauty. And my dear friend JY V., another talented Mauritian who like me and everybody else, were here to bid adieu to our former teacher, Mr D. Runghen. Chatting with them was such a joy. High intellect with such humility and simplicity. Such a fruitful and unpretentious conversation! My soul fed on voraciously.
As a St Andrews SchooI student, I loved listening to Mr. Donald Runghen, our English literature teacher in room 26, reciting verse after verse of John Keats. He ignited the colours of my imagination. Lamia the serpent woman is now a rainbow of colours and gems. Lamia and Lycius’ love is everlasting. I walk with the Beadsman along the cold corridors which are embers of beauty. La belle dame sans merci is not cruel but a mystery wood welcoming only those who are soulmates of nature. The lake is still and birds sing only for soulmates. I will pluck roots, flowers and leaves that will heal the human heart and mind.
Thou was not born for death, Immortal bird. Mr. Runghen’s poetic voice chanted Keats’ love for the nightingale. Today my immortal bird is the sparrow who sings for me every morning since the ancient days. My Immortal sparrow weaves words into verses for me.
I felt so relaxed in his poetry and history classes. I disliked to do assignments on Keats or history but his voice carved a niche in my heart and history became my forever friend. I realised that history taught me lessons of hurting and healing of and in life.
In room 26, I closed my eyes and travelled with my teacher and his friend to South Wales on hop plantations to hand pick the buds in summer. I opened a flowerbud and its yellow powder smelled of lemon grass, orange and grapefruit.
This is how lyricism became my chant, words my bard. So I became a lunatic because I prefer the voices of barks and branches, birds and beasts, pebbles and boulders rather than the noises of humans.
Thank you Mr. Runghen because I found my voice and my path as a poet because of you.