Monday, September 10, 2012

Monsieur Lazhar (Canada 2011): “She hugged you after you cried”

“Don't try to find a meaning to Martine's death.
There isn't one.
A classroom is a home for...
It's a place
of friendship, of work,
and courtesy.
Yes, courtesy.
A place full of life.
Where you devote your life.
A place where you give of your life.
Not infect a whole school
with your despair.”

­- Monsieur Lazhar

A teacher hangs herself in the classroom before school.  A tragedy?  Was she driven to it? Do her sixth graders know why?  Is one of them to blame?

Are physical demonstrations of care not welcome in the classroom?  So many rules and so little room for simple humanity. 

A new teacher, a somber decent man from Algeria, Bachir, as wise and scarred as his years replaces the lost Martine.  The wall of the classroom have been repainted, her desk emptied, and a psychologist employed.  Still a specter lingers. Who has the greater pain, the children or the new teacher?  He must guide the children from the dark forest of loss, and suppress his own angst.  Death and injustice, from two worlds apart.

He reads his own composition for their correction:

The Tree and the Chrysalis by Bachir Lazhar

After an unjust death,
there's nothing to say.
Nothing at all.
As will become plain below.
From the branch of an olive tree,
there hung a tiny chrysalis
the color of emerald.
Tomorrow it would be a butterfly,
freed from it's cocoon.

> Its. I-t-s.

The tree was happy
to see his chrysalis grown,
but secretly, he wanted to keep her
a few mor years.

> More, m-o-r-e.

"So long as she remembers me."
He'd shielded her from gusts,
saved her from ants.
But tomorrow she would leave
to affront alone predators and poor whether.

> Weather, w-e-a.

That night,
a fire ravaged the forest,
and the chrysalis
never became a butterfly.

At dawn, the ashes cold,
the tree still stood,
but his heart was charred,
scarred by the flames,
scarred at grief.

> Scarred by grief.

When a bird alights on the tree,
the tree tells it about
the chrysalis that never woke up.
He pictures her, wings spread,
flitting across
a clear blue sky,
drunk on nectar and freedom,
the discreet witness
to our love stories.

A story of love and grief.  The love that binds and the grief that keeps us apart.