The Gift of Tears

April 14, 2015 by Bill Ivey

"Hey, Bill's crying." I nodded quietly as the student reading her poem looked over at me and then continued.

The Humanities 7 class had just finished reading Part Four of I Am Malala and I had been at something of a loss for how to run the discussion. It's a short, painful section that begins immediately after the Taliban shot her for her advocacy of Western values (such as girls' education) and continues through her hopitalization in Pakistan to her being airlifted to England. I arrived in class prepared with several ideas for how to handle it, but it was only at the moment of truth that I decided to ask the students to write a poem in reaction to the section, telling them they would read their poem to the class but would not need to share it with me electronically. They set immediately to work, and eventually it was down to two students waiting for the last line of their poems to come to them. The others were already working independently on other things while waiting, so I could hope these students would not feel the pressure to stop before they genuinely felt ready.

I chose to have them read in a zigzag pattern that spread around the room. They listened quietly and attentively to each other's work, and as each student in turn read, it gradually became clear that something extraordinary was happening. It came from the incredibly complex layers of thoughts, feelings, and perspectives that were emerging. It came from the students' voices, both figurative and literal, as they brought strength and sadness and pride and fierceness and power and... nuance to their words. And it came from a feeling that we were all aware of what was happening, all in this together, in the moment and forevermore.

I invited the students to share their poems here, if they were comfortable doing so, and added my own, to give you all at least a glimpse into what we'd written and the layers of thoughts and emotions that had emerged. These poems were shared, and I thank each of the students for her contribution.



She stands so strong;
Against those who would oppose her,
Against those who would stop her,
And against those who would kill her.

She stands so high;
A symbol of hope,
A symbol of peace,
And a symbol of love.

She stands so firm, unmoving;
For girls around the world,
For girls who cannot come home,
And for girls who are trying to learn.

She stands today,
Though many thought she'd die.
She stands today for what is right,
And defies all those who try to stop her.

- Eileen


It was a normal day,
That ended in bloodshed.
It was a hot morning,
Before the cool white hospital bed.

The world has gone numb,
Has my spirit gone?
Perhaps it has not,
But then perhaps it is I who has flown.

Now I am in London,
Cloudy gray skies above me,
And as I close my eyes and think of home,
I wonder who misses me.

But now I stand,
And unviolently fight,
For the rights of so many girls,
Across this world so wide.

- Eileen


Three Poems


Malala: Darkness Surrounding Me

Pop, pop, pop of a gun

That's what everyone hears

Crack, crack, crack, drip, drip, drip 

A chicken's head being cut off

Is what I hear

Then all I see is black


Moniba: Blood and Tears Shed

Her head in my lap

Blood spattering everywhere

My tears falling like waterfalls

All I could do is pray,

But was that enough?

Ziauddin Yousafzai (her dad): Oh, Allah


Please don't take my Malala away from me

She is my life

The sun to my earth

I would do anything for her to be okay

- Nikki




Was she on that bus?

Will she live?

How could I live without her?

That Talib will pay for what they have done!

They will be in jail forever

Even that's not enough

They must die


Would Malala want that?

What would she think if when she woke up she knew that I had killed the Talib?


Please don't take her from me

I couldn't survive

The hours of surgery are making my hair fall out

Please God help us


I cannot leave my wife and sons

They need me

I cannot leave Malala

She needs me


She doesn't

She is strong and brave

And the doctors will make her well again

When we can all leave

We will

And we will be a family again

- Sunrise



Crack crack crack,
Drip drip drip,
Bang bang bang,
Then all is still,
No more chattering,
No more laughter,
No more Taliban,
No more Malala,
Frantic movements,
Then hustle and bustle,
An unfamiliar room,
Loud voices,
Deafening roars,
Air beat into submission,
Just barely alive,
But stronger

- Nora




15 years old

That's all

Already known by the world

Already loved by the world

And so, watched by the world

But not the way her parents watched her

I can't imagine what that would be like

A part of my soul lives in my son

The most important part

Without which the other parts might not even matter to me

So to watch your own child lying there



Unable to see your tears

Hear your "I love you"

Soft as it might be as it claws its way

Past the lump in your throat

All you can do

Is hope

Your love gets through

And helps sustain

Helps pull her back from the edge of death

Because as much as the world needs her

Needs her strength and healing spirit

It's a fraction of how much you need her

And she needs you.

- Bill


The Chaos of Malala

The pang of the shoot 

The Shock

The darkness 

More darkness 

More darkness

I can't see 

I can't think 

I can't comprehend 

I can't believe 

But I can hear 

I hear the screams 

I hear the Talib

hear the chopper 

hear the pilot

I hear the nurses 

I hear the people telling me to hold on 

I hear Allah's voice

I hear hope 

I hear strength 

I hold on to Allah, hope and strength 

I hold on a little bit longer

I use Allah's hope and Allah's strength 

I hold on through the chaos I hold on. 

- Marina 


The Chaos of Moniba 

The horror of the shoot 

I see the Talib 

I see the blood 

I feel the pain 

I look down 

I look to my lap 

I look to Malala 

I look to my friend 

I look to the girl who never gave up 

I look at the brave 

I look at the one who wouldn't listen to no 

I look at strength 

I look at hope

I look to the girl who hated injustice  

I look at this pile in my lap 

I look around to the others 

I look to the ones whose hope is drained 

I look around and in the chaos I weep

- Marina


I Fight

I had accepted this from the beginning

They will kill you

Let them

I had waited and watched for this 

Checking the windows

Every door

Closed and locked 

Blinds drawn

I was the strongest face of the revolution 

But here I am 

Bleeding out now in my best friend's lap

Not so strong now

But if I die here

On a school bus in once peaceful valley 

My cause will not die

My words will not die

In fact, they will strengthen 

Become even more powerful than before 

Every bullet will bounce off

And every girl will find peace

- Beatrice


Written by Bill Ivey

A dedicated member of the faculty, Bill Ivey is the Middle School Dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. He teaches Humanities 7 and the Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. Bill is the advisor for MOCA, the middle school student government, and he coordinates and participates in the middle school service program. Among his many hats, Bill also coordinates social media for Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

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Filed Under: Poetry, girls' education, In the Classroom, Malala Yousafzai