A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2007, vol 3 no 2

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Ynes Sanz


Yes and la

Behind me the city bars are awash with Belgian beer and executive stress but waiting for the ferry home a group of silly black-eyed youths is high on life, fooling and pretending to tip each other into the river.

brackish water
and the gleam
of teeth

The young man next to me gestures towards his friends 'These are mad people.' They talk animatedly and I listen for a familiar word. Noticing, he tests me 'What language are they talking?'


'Arabic, yes' he says seriously 'this is correct.'

'I heard him say la. La I know also shokran and salaam aleikum'. I'm showing off.

'Salaam aleikum'. He repeats the blessing.

Now in front of me the tallest young man is holding out a small box. 'Take it, it's a cookie ' he says.

I'm embarrassed. I feel I should refuse but he offers it again.

'Take it,' he smiles, 'then you can say shokran '.