i.m. Marianne Carolan
Stretched out across three seats,
tucked under a thin brown blanket,
my friend two rows behind me.
Blinds are down, this return half empty,
breakfast our next call, then Heathrow.
I can still smell roasted coffee beans:
a ceremony performed with precision.
I see round Tukul huts, the market, hills,
blue school uniforms, the churches
carved from rock, priests in white robes.
A boy and his widowed mother.
We donated dictionaries, old laptops,
mobile phones, Man United shirts.
We improved our Amsege’nallo,
bought breakfasts, wore the white
gowns they gave us for Timket.
Our new families in Lalibela. Epiphany.
This poem is dedicated to the memory of my friend Marianne. It’s her birthday today. After an educational trip to Lalibela she started sponsoring a boy there. Her friends and colleagues too started sponsoring children, some of them orphans. As they moved into higher education, more funds were needed – to see them through university and nursing college. That’s why Marianne set up the Lalibela Educational Trust in 2006.
With Marianne and other sponsors, I travelled to Ethiopia to meet my “Lalibela son” and his mother. Our visit in January 2007 coincided with the religious Timket festival.