Sita Brahmachari

Writer

Sita Brahmachari is an award winning author of plays and novels for young people. Her work has been nominated for the Carnegie medal and the UKLA Book Award, and her novel Artichoke Hearts won the Waterstone's Children's Book Award 2011. Sita’s plays include Lyrical MC and The Arrival and she has worked on community and education projects for The Royal Court, Talawa Theatre Company and The Royal Shakespeare Company. The character of Zak Johnson, as he speaks to the Unknown Soldier is taken from Sita's forthcoming novel Red Leaves to be published by Macmillan Children's Books in Autumn 2014.

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Sita Brahmachari

Writer

Dear soldier,

Every time I set foot on this station I look for you holding on to that letter of yours.

So many times I’ve stood here trying to read the expression on your face, feel the emotions surge through your armoured heart as you scan the words of…what are they…love, longing, news from home?

Sometimes I imagine that you raise your head and force your heavy eye lids open. Maybe that’s what you do when we’re not looking, watch us passing by…a century of travellers from platform number one. Arrivals and departures assembling together: black shiny shoes, converse, DM’s, walking boots, the sharp echo of heels through history.

I wish you could step off your plinth and glimpse into my world like I once did into yours. I close my eyes and imagine…The station rumbles and the earth quakes as your giant boots crash in on our time.

A boy collides with you as he lugs his rucksack but he doesn’t feel the brush of your scratchy coat against his skin, the heavy burden you carry on your shoulders, you’re invisible to him just as you were once to me.

 

I struggle to keep pace as you march through the station all these people criss-crossing straight through you. ‘Sorry son, old habit,’ you laugh as you slow down for me. I watch you strain to take in the: hands raised to mobiles, mouths talking into thin air- or so it must seem, fingers scrolling over iPads … ‘I don’t recognise this world,’ you mutter.

Then you stop and stare at the huge over-head screen where the news reels on and on displaying images of children marching into refugee camps, next a bomb falling on a building, ashen-faced men and women cradling babies emerging from the rubble, bleeding. ‘What is that?’ you ask, pointing to the screen. ‘The News,’ I answer. You raise your heavy head and look up, up beyond the steel framed ribs to the glass ceiling. ‘Old, old news,’ you sigh and wander back to your plinth, head bowed.

Outside the rain pours down, making a drum of the station roof. I open my eyes as a constant drip splashes onto me and you.

A pigeon settles on your chest. Wings flutter under your great coat, the fine paper of your letter shivers and tears begin to roll down your copper cheeks.

You are not ‘The Unknown Soldier’ to me,

Zak Johnson

 

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