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THE MATHEMATICS

OF SURVIVAL
BRAVE NEW WORDS FROM YOUNG WRITERS
AT NEWHAM SIXTH FORM COLLEGE

EDITED BY JOELLE TAYLOR AND KAT LEWIS


10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Collection copyright English PEN, 2017
The moral right of the authors has been asserted.
The views expressed in this book are those of the
individual authors, and do not necessarily represent the
opinions of the editors, publishers or English PEN.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under


copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means
(electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise), without the prior permission of both the
copyright owner and the publisher of the book.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from


the British Library.

Printed and bound in Great Britain


by Newham Sixth Form College
Prince Regent Lane
Plaistow
London E13 8SG
www.newvic.ac.uk

Design and illustrations by Brett Evans Biedscheid,


www.statetostate.co.uk
ISBN No. 978-0-9957234-0-5

www.englishpen.org
2 INTRODUCTIONS 19 PARADISE ISLAND 31 BORN JOLLY
JONATHAN MOHAMMED UZOAMAKA MBADIWE
5 FOR HOPE
ABAD MOHAMMAD SNAKES AND FAKES 33 WHAT GEEKS ARE
JONATHAN MOHAMMED MARK-ANTHONY RAMSEY
6 NAVIGATION
YUSUF MOHAMED EXECUTION CHILDHOOD
JONATHAN MOHAMMED TAHSIN RAHMAN
UNTITLED
SANYA MEHRBAN 21 AN ARTIST INSPIRED FAKE FRIENDS
BY FOUND OBJECTS BULENT ENVER
7 WORKING CLASSES MELISSA BHEEKHA
JACK GALBRAITH 34 DEAR DIARY
22 IS LAR NISHTAY REBECCA CAVANAGH
THANK YOU JADKI LAPARI
YASMIN ABUBAKAR (NOWHERE FOR THE TRANSFORMATION
CHILD TO GO) MINAL KHAN
PATHWAYS IKRA NAWAZ
JACK GALBRAITH 35 HUMANITY
24 BLESSINGS NAVEED KHAN
8 SPELLING OUT JOSEPH ROSTANT AND
DISASTER MAGDALENA ZOCHOLL UNTITLED
AGNES THIONGO HOLLY POWELL
HELD RECORD FOR
10 LOVE BIRD SIGHTINGS 36 9 MONTH OLD SEED
RAKIB AHMED TASHAWAR AHMER FATIHA LOUISA GUERGUER,
NAVEED KHAN AND
THE AREA GUILT ABAD MOHAMMAD
RAKIB AHMED LIAM JEFFERY
AN INTERPRETATION
THE LIFESTYLE 25 CRACKS OF YOUR TEARS
RAKIB AHMED LIAM JEFFERY THALIA HANCOCK

11 UNTITLED BROTHER MY STORY


MAJEDAH KAYUM LIAM JEFFERY SAMUEL LEMUS VALENCIA

DEAR DIARY CONGO 38 THE INDEPENDENT


CLAVERINE ROWE LIAM JEFFERY INDIVIDUAL
LUKAS SHAKESPEARE
13 THE LONG JOURNEY 26 FRIENDSHIP AND
MAJOR YOHANNES ALEMU FREEDOM THE STREETS
LIAM JEFFERY SAMUEL LEMUS VALENCIA
CALAIS
MAJOR YOHANNES ALEMU ORIGIN 39 FOOTBALL IS A DRUG
FATIHA LOUISA GUERGUER SAMUEL LEMUS VALENCIA
14 RILEY
ESA AHMED 28 THE HUMANISTIC TEENS FROM THE
ALPHABET STREETS
UNTITLED HANNAH MARIA KHAN SAMUEL LEMUS VALENCIA
NAVEED KHAN
29 DONALD TRUMP UNTITLED
15 LEAVES FATIHA LOUISA GUERGUER CLAY NKOY
VINUSHAN JEGATHEESAN
THE LOST SOULS 41 LUCID THOUGHTS
STAINED GLASS JAHEDUL MIAH HIFZA NAWAZ
VINUSHAN JEGATHEESAN
BIASED LAWS AND 42 CRACKS
16 A JOG IN THE PARK DISCRIMINATION AMEERA ISMAIL
CLAVERINE ROWE JAHEDUL MIAH
43 UNTITLED
18 WE ARE WRITERS 30 BIRTH RIGHT CLAY NKOY
MINAL KHAN, ESA AHMED JAHEDUL MIAH
AND HABIB RAHMAN LIFE OF A REFUGEE
LIFE ABAD MOHAMMAD
MAKER OF CANDY PRAVEEN KAGENTHERAN
BARS
AGNES THIONGO FOR THE TEENAGER
PRAVEEN KAGENTHERAN
COME FROM?
JONATHAN MOHAMMED
An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

Poetry gives our language the wings to fly and in difficult times we need strong wings.
Starting with just the alphabet, the poetic form allows our ideas to soar. Just like those
in our previous anthologies, the poems in this collection launch themselves off the
page with power and passion refusing to be held down.

Thank you to these young poets for their contribution to the algebra of humanity
starting with just the mathematics of survival.

Thank you also to Joelle Taylor, Kat Lewis and English PEN for their continued support
and commitment to helping our students develop their work.

EDDIE PLAYFAIR
PRINCIPAL, NEWHAM SIXTH FORM COLLEGE (NEWVIC)

This is a book for those who read over the borders of a page. This is a book for people
who write in the margins. This is a book for people who live there too.

I spent an inspiring six weeks working at NewVIc with the Step UP group two separate
groups of young people who wanted to work on their English and their control of it
on a page. It was a powerful experience, one in which we each traded life stories
and dreams and tried to make them sit still on a piece of paper. Whilst I was there to
enhance their appreciation of reading and writing, the real purpose perhaps was to
encourage them to write the book that they wanted to read. Here it is. Whether you
contributed five poems or one, this is your book. Read it in public. Read it loud.

JOELLE TAYLOR
FACILITATOR

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

At such uncertain times it is a privilege to come to NewVIc where it's clear that hate is
a lack of imagination. The sparkling talent in this group of young writers is fed by their
fresh and curious eyes. I believe in a future where these voices are loud.

KAT LEWIS
FACILITATOR

The dark vision conjured by the brilliant writers featured in this collection is not an easy
one to process. There are tales of wars taking place across the world and on our own
back doorsteps, introspective imaginings of the minds of those who find themselves
dispossessed by a world in crisis, stories of journeys taken by those attempting to escape
evil only to find themselves thrust into it again in another form. But the creativity and
bravery of the young people whose eyes we see through in The Mathematics of Survival
is a powerful lesson in resilience to all of us.

Thanks go to the ever-inspiring Joelle Taylor, who worked for six weeks with students on
the NewVIc Step UP programme, encouraging them to speak their truths in writing that is
both published here and will also be turned into animations by NewVIc media students.

Thanks also to Kat Lewis, who facilitated a fantastic series of workshops that saw
students experiment with form, group writing, translating the visual to the verbal and
more.

Many thanks to Steven Kern, Kate Reed, Sandra Baptiste and all the staff at NewVIc who
made this project happen. Thanks to Louise Swan, who was instrumental in the initiation
and development of this project for English PEN.

Finally, thanks to the young writers that youre about to read. English PEN is proud of
every single person who here raises their voice to struggle against what they feel is
wrong. Contributing new voices to English PENs long-running activism, every word in
this collection is a fist raised in defiance.

REBEKAH MURRELL
ACTING HEAD OF PROGRAMMES

JANUARY 2017

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

FOR HOPE
ABAD MOHAMMAD

This is for
The boy who sits quietly at his desk
In the centre of a battlefield
Studying the mathematics of survival
For the young girls
Dressed in hijab
Stalked in the shadows of men
Holding bibles like guns
Bombs aiming at those innocent families
Who suffer from poverty
Dust is covering their body like skin
Pale white torn birth certificates
The rivers of blood
Streaming down the streets of Palestine.
Children playing in the tide
Woman stares at her reflection in the blood
This is for babies who have bullets instead of bottles
Guns instead of toys
Bodies instead of games
This is for hope
For unity
For justice

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

NAVIGATION
YUSUF MOHAMED

He needs a compass to navigate the channel


Gets so lost he cannot untangle
When he sails on her seas
He just goes with the breeze
Lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

UNTITLED
SANYA MEHRBAN

The sun emerged, by the decree of God, sending golden rays of divinity
across the barren wasteland. The buzzing of small flies awoke me and I
rubbed the sleep off my eyes. My bones groaned as I stood up. Another day,
I said to myself. But I did not mind. The morning wind blew the swishing sand
across the desert. I made a small prayer and headed towards the nearby river.
The sound of dipping water ringed in my ears. Steadily I walked towards the
bank of the river, still battling my unconsciousness. I gazed into the depths
of the water, my coldness staring back at me. I was a villager and this was
who Id always be. But still, deep within my heart there was a black void, that
yearned for something more. I gasped and suppressed this desire until I could
feel it fading away in the pit of my stomach. I swallowed: just another day,
where I would tend to the flock of sheep. Instantly the sound of a gunshot
rang loud in my ears. Trees rustled as birds flew away in fright. My eyes
widened with shock as understanding finally settled within me. The flock.
The flock! I shouted. I ran in desperation, my blood filled with fear.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

WORKING CLASSES
JACK GALBRAITH

This is for
The working class of London
Who cannot afford to breathe
Whose houses are homeless
Whose dreams are hopeless
This is for
Those in London with little to share
Climbing a ladder of life that is barely there
Getting madder every day
Forgetting the words they were about to say

THANK YOU
YASMIN ABUBAKAR

Thank you to God who has blessed me with everything I have in this world
Thank you to my Mum for going through pregnancy and labour and giving birth
to me at seven months rather than nine
Thank you to my Dad for being there
Thank you to my siblings for endless banter everyday
Thank you to my family for being my family
Thank you to my best friend who also gives me bants
Thank you to JD for the banging trainers
Thank you to myself for holding it down

PATHWAYS
JACK GALBRAITH

I go left
I go right
Which path to choose
Should I stay in the past?
Or should I walk
Head high
Toward the future?

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

SPELLING OUT DISASTER


AGNES THIONGO

A cold icy morning.


Barely can I feel my hands.
Cathy is making me do this.
Dang! Why did I sign up for this?
Every time snow balls hit my head, I shiver.
Fear has engulfed every bit of my being. Because,
God knows this goes against all my ethics. My values.
Honestly, this is what family makes you do.
If only I was more confident, courageous? I wouldve said NO
Jeremy, her teacher, would definitely notice this.
Kind for sure, but I dont want him to think I am taking advantage
Let me not say that I will never do this again because never say never
My own twin sister Cathy is making me sit in her boring classes the whole day.
Not once did I think she would be this evil
Oh! But she is.
Perhaps I should just get this done, once and for all
Questions are running through my head. Why me?
Reasons dont come to my mind, Im frustrated.
Somehow I will get through this day, somehow!
To be honest, my love for my sister outweighs this doubt.
Unconditional love will kill me one day.
Voices are getting louder from her school and my heart beats louder.
Whatever time this day ends, I will rejoice.
Xmas time? I will repay.
Yet I still dont know how.
Zestfully, I run to class like Cathy would, talking to friends like Cathy would
wish me luck!

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

LOVE
RAKIB AHMED

And I cannot resist you


And you cannot keep your hands off me
And I keep on coming back
And you keep on opening your heart
And you keep letting me in
Our love is still visible and I love you

THE AREA
RAKIB AHMED

In the area, youngers carry knives and the olders carry guns
They all are killing their own kind
These kids are all lost and money hungry
Growing up in a slum where youd get robbed on a normal day
So just dont be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

THE LIFESTYLE
RAKIB AHMED

I was brought up in a sh*thole


Full of wasteman robbing youngers
Theyd risk their life for a couple bills
Now its a trend to sell drugs
The new generation dont want to work a 9 to 5
Their lives are peak

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

UNTITLED
MAJEDAH KAYUM

I wish she didnt, but she did


I was hit by a pile of bricks
These are awful times, when I need more than rhymes.
When I was hit, it was none but traumas
Now, Im here trying to recall
All the times we shared but its all a blur
I still remember when you wrapped me with your fur of comfort
My heart is too shredded, every little piece too puny for mirth.
Im still crying staring at the face behind your blazoned mirror
Our last photograph is all I have to keep.

DEAR DIARY
CLAVERINE ROWE

Ive been here for a quarter of a year and have another two quarters to go.
I dont know how to feel; Im loving it but its also a learning process. I have
fallen madly in love with the city scenery which is a drastic change from my
country surroundings back home, its refreshing to wake up to beautiful brown
buildings packed tightly like sardines along the road rather than the dull,
distressing, half-dead trees. Another thing Ive tripped head over heels for is
the beaming sun which lights up the room as bright as a famous person who
is known worldwide for something great! It is a satisfying feeling knowing that
you dont have to weigh yourself down with clothing as thick as a polar bears
fur in order to have a regulated body temperature. Its been a great experience
so far, getting to know the area people speak so highly of. Its really living up
to the fantastic reviews.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

THE LONG JOURNEY


MAJOR YOHANNES ALEMU

This is for the young girl


Lost in the Sahara desert
Her screams a sandstorm
Her skin is dust
Her smile a crack in the earth
Her pocket tunnels in sand dunes
At night
The blackness of the world falls on her
She keeps walking
Towards the dream of water

CALAIS
MAJOR YOHANNES ALEMU

No place to sleep
I kept walking
Trying to get on the lorry
All night
The police punches
Dog bites us
So hungry
Once a day food
Three weeks to get to England
No shower
No phone no family
Weather as cold as the police
As wet as my tears

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

RILEY
ESA AHMED

Another year has gone by and things are still the same. Blue is the sky and
anarchy is the state of the mind. Can change be possible even for a being so
flawed? Disaster is the common theme, easier than most believe. For anarchy is
the state of the mind and guidance is far from home. His character is conflicting
and so his life is a trial. Indeed, life would be so much easier if he wasnt in
need. Joy seems like impossibility; Karen, his mate, urges him differently.
Lovely as it may be, its still just words. Maybe someday they will have meaning
but never in his time. Opposites attract so all hope is not lost. Pointless as it
may seem, questions are needed. Riley is the name. Small; tiny, even. And ugly.
Violent in nature. Weird in life. X his position, Y his destination, Z a sign for his
confusion. Of course every being is flawed.

UNTITLED
NAVEED KHAN

Shock he felt
Fear he smelt
Family he left behind
His eyes were as wide as a gun barrel ready to fire
His mouth a bomb canon ready to shoot out bullets
His skin was a map of his home
His voice was the sound of a low flying drone

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

LEAVES
VINUSHAN JEGATHEESAN

This is for the teenager


With memories of crime
Red line of a knife wound
For those victims of violence
Who scream of police sirens
Whose mothers sits waiting in silent
Their eyes are open graves
We drop flowers in to the weathers.
This is for the loss of Somalia, the diaspora
Scattered like leaves around the playground.
For the boy who never be found.
This is for the young girl at war
Who doesnt know
Who shes holding the gun for

STAINED GLASS
VINUSHAN JEGATHEESAN

I am made of mosaic memories


Even though they are cracked-up memories
If I am a stained glass window
One of the panes is broken
There is a hole in the centre of me
Left by a bullet that scattered my family
To Canada, France, UK and Germany
While my fathers line still live in Sri Lanka
Waiting for tourists to arrive
And sunbathe on battle ground
In this way we survive.

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

A JOG IN THE PARK


CLAVERINE ROWE

Awakening to the sour greeting of the British gloom, my mood instantly set
itself for the day. Lazily, I rose out of my bed, gently tapping the alarm clock
that sat comfortably on my chest of drawers half a metre away from me.
The time flickering rapidly on its face revealed that I was late for my daily
jog. Hastily, I grabbed my gleaming gold tracksuit and hauled it from its pit
(otherwise known as my wardrobe). I slipped into my tracksuit and raced out,
sliding into my trainers on the way.

Usually, Id meet up with my buddy Luke for the jog but hes probably long
gone by now. I started off with a steady pace, but this erratic weather had me
rolling all over the place. I slowed down so that I wouldnt fall; the ground was
damp through from the horrendous rain last night. As I travelled down the
silent roads, I took in the scenery, noticing that I never usually do. The nude
trees posing confidently above decorated my otherwise grey area, and the
familiar smell of the soaked terrain followed me.

About three quarters in to my mile and a half jog, I grew tired and noticed I had
forgotten my water at home. I sat down on a bench and, feeling detached from
myself as I hyperventilated, stared down at a chest with a hand placed gently
on it. I felt a soft drop of liquid fall onto my scalp and quickly pulled my feeble
hood onto my bristling mane. The sky grew grimier than before. I stood up and
continued with my jog, dodging the insults the sky spat onto the British land
as best I could.

As I got closer to leaving through the parks exit, I saw a dark figure laying on
the ground. As the gap between the figure and I decreased, I caught a glimpse
of a neon orange water bottle one I had seen every day for the last two years.
It cant be, I thought. I slowed down as I got to the figure and recognised the
blonde shoulder length hair and the stubble on the chin. LUKE! I screamed in
horror, and hurried over to him.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

17
An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

WE ARE WRITERS
MINAL KHAN, ESA AHMED AND HABIB RAHMAN

Creative beings
We are writers
Merely living things
We are writers
Living life with ease
We are writers
Dont forget me

MAKER OF CANDY BARS


AGNES THIONGO

My life is a mess because of you


You, you are the reason Im a bullied girl
Because not only do I talk but smile too
Maker of candy bars, please
I wish you would give my life back to me
Maker of candy bars you took my teeth away
I want my smile back my way

COME FROM?
JONATHAN MOHAMMED

I come from police sirens and gun shots


I come from the taste of iron and copper
I come from the smell of gun smoke
I come from the sight of tower blocks

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

PARADISE ISLAND
JONATHAN MOHAMMED

This is for the boy who strolls on the paradise island of Trinidad
Searching for his one and only dad, surrounded by exotic trees and birds
He cries out for help but nobody heard
This is for the boy who got rid of his nerves and started shooting at nerds
Drug dealers and murders have become new role models
This is for the boy who never learnt to become a man but but was forced to by nature
He has the heart of a lion but a palm full of iron

SNAKES AND FAKES


JONATHAN MOHAMMED

I rose from these streets, creating these beats


Helping these neeks, trying to find the answers
To be complete, my heart beat the sound of running feet
I heard the echo of sirens, my head spun like Simon
I had to jump over a gate, I knew it wasnt fate
There had to be a snake, most my friends are fake
Theyll be gone when I awake

EXECUTION
JONATHAN MOHAMMED

Zeinab faces the death penalty; her life is full of misery


Abused by her husband, raped by her brother in law
Tortured by police, she seeks help
But everyone turns the other cheek; shes facing execution by hanging
Sometimes she wishes she was 6 feet deep

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

AN ARTIST INSPIRED BY FOUND OBJECTS


MELISSA BHEEKHA

An artist inspired by found objects


Took a brush and two colours:
Red and black.

Flooded white paper in the black


Stroked the new bleak blackness in red.
Red for tidal wave thoughts
That crush all consciousness at the moment of contact.
Black for light-destroying darkness
For forgetting, for attempts to bury those memories.

That is why the umbrella and the glove were in the attic.
They remember her, with her hair curly
Gems of rain dropping onto hands
Carefully folded in red gloves, touching his.
He, leaning over to protect her, with the dome of his umbrella.

21
An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

IS LAR NISHTAY JADKI LAPARI


(NOWHERE FOR THE CHILD TO GO)
IKRA NAWAZ

Alone.
Bloodshed... she dragged her feet across the dry, barren wastelands-
Claws. No, just a child; rubbing her face as her scarlet hair obstructed her
weary eyes.
Death, how far was the reaper? She gazed into the lair of oblivion waiting
ahead of her.
Escape! She snapped her eyes behind her, wide and trembling as the
arid winds gushed past her dry skin. She raced across the desolate lands,
littered with the remains of stone pillars of a once proud civilisation.
Family... where are they? Mother? Father? Where are you all? She panted,
not looking back as the crimson lights from the heavens glaring down on
the forsaken lands.
Genocide, this was all just a game to them; a disgusting game between
life and death. Your race, religion, ideologies, loyalties and your own
damned identity! This all was a way to eradicate anyone who dared to
oppose them.
Hell, this was a world that no child should ever be exposed to-
unfortunately this was the only world she knew.
Ill. was what the doctors diagnosed,
Jail. was what the militia reached to a decree,
Kill. was what her master directed,
Lonely is what Ive become,
Monster is what the world screams and points Evil. When they push
you to your limits and you fight back, thats what happens. Control; once
they lose that, they fear your very existence.
Night. She gazed off into the inky skies, observing the shining, distant
stars, like as if they were portals to the worlds beyond the mortal plains
she knew.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

Once, twice, all lost yet again.


People come and go, not once someone remained in her life- no; there was one but she
vanished, lost within the sands of time.
Questions, questions... questions?
Restraints. Chained and locked away, with no means of escape, alone below the layers
of humanities seen knowledge. I was a failure, a creature of pure despair. Only now did
she understand the utter destruction of humanity.
Six billion dead and... She didnt even know how many people survived. It was better
off she remained isolated from the survivors.
Tears rolled down her pale face, the pain of it all...
Under her layers of scarred, torn skin is just a child. Scared, terrorised to accept this
body of a human with nothing more than the sole purpose of genocide.
A raging, wild fire.
Vulnerable, yet she had to fend for herself with the scars of her violent agony drawn all
over her fragile body.
Why? She clawed her scalp as she shook her head. Mother! Father! Anyone! Why do
they blame me? Why are you all not here? Her thin pupils scrutinised her hands, claws
in that matter, blurred by her seething tears.
X-rays, medical documents, there was no cure... this whole experiment had no hope of
being reversed.
Yelling, screaming, crying... But no one came.
Zoned, this entire land was nowhere, isolated from the reaches so that those wanting
nothing more than sweet lies are safe from the bitter truth of the reality waiting for
them.

23
An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

BLESSINGS
JOSEPH ROSTANT AND MAGDALENA ZOCHOLL

Thank you for being in my life


Thank you for every look at me, that your eyes relish in,
Thank you for understanding
Thank you for not going when I start to talk
Thank you for drying my tears
Thank you for wiping mine away before they appeared
Thank you for saving my life
Thank you for staying in mine
I love you, and thank you for you
I love you, and thank you for you too

HELD RECORD FOR BIRD SIGHTINGS


TASHAWAR AHMER

It wasnt a hobby, it was more his life


When he went out each day, each night
With his black binoculars and pockets full of seeds
Now that hes gone, Im sure those birds will see
And sing in the spaces where he used to be
He didnt search for birds, he filled his heart with nests
And sometimes birds would go there for rest

GUILT
LIAM JEFFERY

He sleeps with a knife below his pillow.


Hes afraid of his own shadow
He looks in his reflection and its shallow
He fears hell be found in his own lair
He looks in the mirror and no ones there
His own guilt is built on that final dare
When he took out the boy beneath the stair
He did that out of boredom
To gain protection
And respect from his serfdom.
Death is a big price to pay for freedom.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

CRACKS
LIAM JEFFERY

When I was in Kent


Every time I went to school
I fell over
The same crack in the pavement
These days
That crack is my own smile
And I keep falling
Falling.

BROTHER
LIAM JEFFERY

When he was born I was ecstatic


I was so happy because now I had a brother
When I first saw him, he was as small as a god
And I vowed to protect him
Walk safely brother; know that your shadow is always
With you

CONGO
LIAM JEFFERY

When I went to Congo


I went to my uncles house for the very first time
It was a new experience for me
Going to Congo gave me a different view point of the world
A baby shirtless, playing with dirt
Writing his lost mothers name in the dust of the earth;
Women carrying the Western world on top of their heads;
Wading through rivers of heat
At night
Congo looks to the black skies and sees
The constellations form the face of Warlord Bemba.

25
An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

FRIENDSHIP AND FREEDOM


LIAM JEFFERY

One of my best friends taught me how to ride a bike


I dont see him anymore
He moved away
Riding my bike.
As he was going to his new house
I could see him on the main road
Fading further into the distance

ORIGIN
FATIHA LOUISA GUERGUER

I come from the city.


Birds unlistening, a clean and peaceful environment where people come to
The smell of fish and chips, just around the corner
Kids rushing out of school as they hear the ice cream van
Brings back memories as a child you know.

My mother rarely talks about my birth


But when she does her eyes widen into the Algerian sunrise
Her skin softens into a road map
Her heart beats like a derbuka drum
Like a lion growling
The excitement in her eyes when shes already given birth then looks at my
face with a smile
And all of a sudden Im 5 ft 7 tall
Incredible, she says. 1 down, more to go.
Wants me to have siblings to grow up with
AS A FAMILY
And like my mothers birthplace Casbah, a small town in Algeria
She has been hit by earthquakes
But my brave mother is still standing strong.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL
An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

THE HUMANISTIC ALPHABET


HANNAH MARIA KHAN

An introduction into the cruelness of human beings


Because we all seem to live life looking through an idealistic and nave
spyglass; crafted by our super ego,
Can it be that our own values divide rather than unite us?
Determining the miserable fate of our future generations because of
self-interest and material goods,
Even though, this stimulates a cycle of oppression and oppressor
vs. oppressed; I guess its just the status quo.
F*ck!
Greed has made this acceptable to say,
Hypocrisy would disagree,
I however, am stuck on the terrible things that we are not protecting our
children from,
Justice I cry, where are you?
Knowledge missing yet the key, and an open mind the door,
Let me offer you a solution to end this inevitable suffering.
Might you look closely and you will see everywhere the results of human
selfishness: life consisting of an attempt to keep existing,
Notions of war leaving many innocent in despair, without a home, without
a livelihood,
Opinions clash all the time, but why as humans do we not resolve our
quarrels with peaceful means?
People are not the only collateral damage, or the only things on Earth:
why do we not consider the effects of our actions on other living,
compassionate things?
Question me if I am wrong, but if you were any lesser in wealth, health, food,
water, education or opportunity, you would be outraged, especially if yours
were taken to satisfy someone else.
Reason with your conscience,
Settle with the idea
That trial and error is OK.
Understand that mistakes are natural and how we move on from them is
what shapes us,
Vanquish the notion that equality is unachievable,
Working as a collective does not generate hate
Xenophobia does!
You must realise your potential and importance,
Zealousness will do the rest.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

DONALD TRUMP
FATIHA LOUISA GUERGUER

The man that doesnt even know what hes saying


Spitting irrelevant words to talk describe us Muslims
Discriminating against peoples beliefs
JUST SHUT UP!
We dont wanna hear it no more
Judging people too quick

THE LOST SOULS


JAHEDUL MIAH

This is for the family who have endless nights


The screams of the lost souls who suffered the waves
Lost more than a home and left a lot behind
This is for old men waiting in line.

BIASED LAWS AND DISCRIMINATION


JAHEDUL MIAH

There is apartheid in the law system


Black and Asian people dominate the prisons
Youre more likely to be arrested if youre Asian
And judged by your skin pigmentation
Our tone and race will be for things that have happened
In other places
Lies upon lies to cover the truth and nothing
But discrimination
They have demonised and colonised over
Half the planet.

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

BIRTH RIGHT
JAHEDUL MIAH

I rose from the streets


Eyes wide open to this violence
I was surrounded by police sirens
A gun shot in the distance then silence
A boy got dropped, then out came the riots
Blood was shed, no sight of lightness
A break of silence
Then suddenly: sirens
I stand on top of the tower block
With the heart of a lion.

LIFE
PRAVEEN KAGENTHERAN

My life is like a stained glass window


Im a broken stained glass window
Once you break a stained glass window
Its hard to fix

FOR THE TEENAGER


PRAVEEN KAGENTHERAN

This is for the teenager


With memories of crime
Whose smile is the thin red line of a knife wound?
Whose mother sits waiting in silence?
Their eyes are open graves
We drop flowers into them wreaths
This is for the loss of Sri Lanka, the diaspora
Scattered like leaves around the playground
For the boy who will never be found.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

BORN JOLLY
UZOAMAKA MBADIWE

I was called Jolly,


How that came to be, I cannot say
When that came to be, I dont know

I lived Jolly,
Caring for all but none
I laughed, danced, skipped and played.
Alls well if youre no wood

I was jolted from this folly,


As I suddenly saw the true mirror,
Of brokenness, hatred and anguish,
The race is not for the swiftest nor success for the toughest.

Yet in the midst of these opposites,


Like a gladdening vision of illumination;
A little spark? A mere flicker or yet, a winsome spot of glare?
Even that I wont know.

But surely, this gives even more pleasure;


Than a trunk load of diamonds,
More ecstasy than the thunderous chorus,
Following the blinding sparkle of the atomic bomb.

A little dew of peace is surely worth a lot more than rivers of roaring triumphs
I was born jolly, but surely, lifes worth more than rallies.

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

WHAT GEEKS ARE


MARK-ANTHONY RAMSEY

Theyre the type of people who would become scientists. These people are so
extremely smart that they dont have many friends besides a text book, a laptop, a pen
and pet chameleon. They are like their pets because they are rare and beautiful.

CHILDHOOD
TAHSIN RAHMAN

The child I was when I was younger


I wish I could turn back time
The child who I was before
Leaves a trail of happiness behind
The child I grew out of
I leave a scar of happiness
The child who everyone misunderstood
Left her with no hope in her mind

FAKE FRIENDS
BULENT ENVER

I stand alone not with fake friends


I got ops here
I got ops there
They look like pagans
My dad told me dont chill with snakes
Coz one day you will end up in the same place as them
These streets get tangled
You see a young yute getting scared of a big guy in a tracksuit
Threatening you with a shank
Or a bottle of acid

He sleeps with a knife under his pillow for protection


Hes trying to catch these cats that went killed his brother
All night he listens to the cries of his mother
They sound like sirens circling outside with the pigs, you see them lurking
He remembers the night his brother died
How the police abandoned him
How they lied
How they planted a gun next to him
Now theyre gathered in church singing hymns.

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

DEAR DIARY
REBECCA CAVANAGH

Dear Diary,

Day 105 on our ramshackle boat with wood and odd pieces of fabric. We left in a
hurry. The sea is a cold mistress. Nothing like Thailand where everything was safe
and familiar Like Dad. He is lost and forgotten. He has forced us into a life we
didnt want! Death, destruction and despair was part of our daily lives and when we
wanted out we were disowned and almost killed.

Now here I am in this boat, falling apart and broken, like us. We wanted to get out
and now here we are: lost in the vast emptiness. Alone.

Routine is what keeps us from going insane Checking the rigging, the food, just
trying to survive Something which Im used to, my survival mechanism. The sweet,
sweet rum is gone. I am slowly fading into the madness. I have found freedom. But
at what cost?

Im not used to the sea. Blue waves and white foam remind me of champagne
bottles overflowing.

TRANSFORMATION
MINAL KHAN

A dark cloud passed as a shadow over his mind. Beautiful, imaginative dreams
suddenly morphed into torturous, vicious and manipulative nightmares. Colours that
shone through him slowly paled. Dangerous thoughts: a curse of some sort. Eager
to find escape from defeat, his fragile mind gave way to gruesome thoughts. He was
no longer the person he used to be: independent, joyful, kind and lively! Memory
after memory faded away; a new man was left in his place. Opening the book of him,
the pages themselves panicked. Queens and Kings said they couldnt put him back
together again. Right they were, as only he could get himself out of this ruin.

Strive and fight, he chanted to himself day and night.

Tearing down layers was the only way to get rid of his doubt. Underneath it all was a
strong-hearted man; the very passionate and caring one he once was.

Where can I find him again? he cried out every night.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

HUMANITY
NAVEED KHAN

I come from police sirens and call to prayer


I come from diversity
I come from the smoke rising from the grenade
I come from the children playing to the laughter of bullets
I come from bodies scattering like birds
I come from the red sea seeping along dusty streets
I am a stone thrown in to the crimson tides
We are the ripples in the red sea
Reaching your shores.

UNTITLED
HOLLY POWELL

Any day is now filled with memories


Before, none of these passed through her head
Cold air always hit her when she went out in the winter
Dark clouds would cover the sky
Even though she loved winter, this was weather even she couldnt stand
Frost covered the windows as she walked aimlessly
Giggles of the past whispered in hot ears
Hearing voices was not uncommon nowadays
In the early hours
Just when she thought that the memories were gone
Know that they never left
Like moths drawn to flame
More memories pierced the room
Nobody knew how to stop it
Only, she could never forget a lost love
Perhaps she needed to be stronger
Quieter and quieter, the voices left
Realising her strength, she had to stop thinking about
Someone who ran away and left her
Truthfully she would only need herself
Understandably, she didnt care for him anymore
Voices and memories left
Whatever she felt vanished
X-rays no longer showed a broken heart
Yes, she was strong
Zzz, she slept peacefully and happily now

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

9 MONTH OLD SEED


FATIHA LOUISA GUERGUER, NAVEED KHAN AND ABAD MOHAMMAD

I rose from these streets to find out what this world is really like.
My skin was hard
Hard like concrete
So hard it began to fall apart
I was left with nothing
Just crumbling cement
Unravelling rust
The streets suffocated with dust
I was blinded by the darkness
Pitch black
Eyes like tunnels
Surrounded by the heartless.

AN INTERPRETATION OF YOUR TEARS


THALIA HANCOCK

Sometimes tears doesnt mean pain


It can mean happiness too
But the tears of joy are rare
And the tears of pain are everywhere
Laughter and smiles may be seen and heard
But is that a way of being understood?
Someone can express how theyre feeling
Just by screaming

MY STORY
SAMUEL LEMUS VALENCIA

I come from young people


Being murdered on the side of the road.
I come from the taste of iron.
I come from the smell of cocaine.
I come from the sight of guns.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

THE INDEPENDENT INDIVIDUAL


LUKAS SHAKESPEARE

He sleeps with a knife under his pillow


While his younger brother and single mother try to come to terms
with the situation
That they will have that separation from a warm three course meal,
all he can do is steal
Then get caught by the old bill
Because of his age the cops let him go
So he decides to turn the page, forget the day, hope tomorrow doesnt
bring the same pain I have on this day
I understand Mums going through depression
Is this to do with the new great depression?
Im not saying Im perfect and Im not saying Im peng
But can someone tell these ugly f*ckers to get out my f*cking endz
Because I dont want to be scared like that time I was ten
When I went to the shop but the shop was closed
So I stayed out trying to walk the cold, trying to beat the cold
Turn around and hear brap, brap
Look at me now
I should have stayed at home
Should have been upstairs
Playing Xbox with Mo

THE STREETS
SAMUEL LEMUS VALENCIA

I rose from these streets


Creating these beats
Helping these neeks
Trying to find the answer to be complete
My heart beat at the sound
Of running feet.

I heard the echo of sirens


My head spun like Simon
I had to jump over the gate
I knew it wasnt fate
There had to be a snake
Most of my friends are fake
Theyll all be gone when I awake.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

FOOTBALL IS A DRUG
SAMUEL LEMUS VALENCIA

Football is like a drug its addictive


The players are like cheetahs they
Never Stop Running.
Peoples hearts racing, when theres
2 minutes on the clock.
The players breathing hard, tired and sweaty.

TEENS FROM THE STREETS


SAMUEL LEMUS VALENCIA

This is for
The young teenagers
From the streets always
Looking over their shoulder.
Not knowing when they have
To whip out the long barrel shotgun.

This is for the users abusers


No money makers.
This is for
Their offspring
Afraid of what tomorrow might bring
Afraid of their homes
The surrounding streets are war zones

UNTITLED
CLAY NKOY

Im trying to make my dreams a reality


But every time I wake up, nightmares.
In my head theres no light
Im like a lightyear away from the stars
Guess Im not bright then
Thrown in the shade to watch another person shine
I told myself this is not right
I have to grind like Tony then Ill be fine
But theres other stuff on my mind
Money and family
Stuff I got to hold tight
If I let it go I might lose more than my mind

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An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

40
THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

LUCID THOUGHTS
HIFZA NAWAZ

Anyone could be a psychopath


Because we cant tell what the other person thinks
Could lucid thoughts mean youre sane?
Definitely not
Even though you may think it
Friends, yeah right
Gary never had my back when I told him
Have I ever told you?
I dont care what you think. Cause Im a psychopath
Just
Kidding, is what Id like to say
Lies are sweet
My conscience says
No one can tell when a person lies
Open your mouth and speak sweet venom
Politicians speak this language
Question them and theyll say I speak the truth
Rest in peace for all you know
Speaking
Truth is a better flavor
Upon tasting theyll want no more
Vacant, theyll stare
Where has this gone?
X-ray in my brain
Youll find no answers there
Zero tolerance for the emotions of humanity is what I am

41
An English PEN book / READERS & WRITERS

CRACKS
AMEERA ISMAIL

The lull questions my answers,


The dark wings out of my fallacy,
And I hear the love bird screeching in the middle of the night, lost at sea, in the middle
of nowhere, seething wounds on the wing,
My wing,
Oh dear Santa,
You trickle into my life and imbibe a part of
My soul, fractional and gigantic,
When you leave me, you take that particular
Part with you,
The way you take that part depends on how you leave me,
You might rip it away forcibly,
Or shatter the part itself as you hammer
It away, while cracking and chipping me
Or I may give it to you willingly, biting
Down the pain it causes me,
For I have to let you go.
A new part will grow in its wake as it always does,
Time is the essence that heals all cracks,
That is the reason why my soul is a juxtaposition of asymmetry,
I have to let thy Father go, Santa,
I have rid myself of the mob,
I have rid my soul,
I have my answer.

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THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL

UNTITLED
CLAY NKOY

Rebels making orphans


Boy all alone wondering who calls this?
Ordered to kill his own
He closed his eyes and killed his first foe
This is for the boy whos bleeding out but cant find the bullet hole
Looking for something to cover it up because he cant take no more

LIFE OF A REFUGEE
ABAD MOHAMMAD

Fear he saw when he looked back


People getting trampled
Houses getting destroyed
Chased by lions who smell their fear
Leaving everything to suffer this.

He carries his home in his pocket


A photograph of his soft family
His little brother Abdul
Smile as wide as a blade
His sister Parvine
Hair tangled like barb wire
His father absent
But his mother a rose in a pool of blood
He touches his pocket
Knows whatever happens god will be with him

43
THE MATHEMATICS OF SURVIVAL
From Readers & Writers, the literature outreach programme of English PEN

Edited by the students of NewVIc, Joelle Taylor, Kat Lewis and Rebekah Murrell

ABOUT ENGLISH PEN


English PEN is one of the UKs leading literature and freedom of expression charities,
and is based at the Free Word Centre in Clerkenwell, London. English PEN promotes
the freedom to write and freedom to read. The founding centre of a worldwide writers
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At www.englishpen.org, you can find out more about the full range of English PENs
activities including campaigning for writers at risk around the world, running a full
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translated into English.

ABOUT NEWVIC, NRICH AND STEP UP


NewVIc Newham Sixth Form College is a thriving sixth form college located in the
heart of east London. The college was established in 1992, with the aim of increasing
opportunities for school leavers in Newham and neighbouring boroughs who opt
to stay in education. Nrich is NewVIcs programme of student development and
enrichment opportunities.

The Mathematics of Survival features contributions from NewVIc students from across
the college courses, including the Step UP programme. Step UP is a foundation level
course providing a supportive environment for students who find school challenging
or unrewarding. Step UP students develop a package of skills and gain qualifications
which will prepare them for work or a higher level of study at college.

Joelle Taylor worked with Step UP students for six weeks, with some students audio
recording their poetry. These recordings will be turned into video animations by
NewVIc media students.

Kat Lewis worked with students from across the college courses as part of a creative
writing Nrich project.

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charity, number 1125610.
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