Isolona 19


I was honoured to have my piece in the RSL’s Only Connect lockdown series of tiny letters, to be used for their 50th edition.  

Only Connect

‘Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be
seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer’ — E.M. Forster

Today is our landmark 50th edition of Only Connect. We launched this tiny letter in March
with the hope that it would be a companion in isolation. We have collected letters from
across our community and from around the world, all responding to items from our Library.

We hope these letters have brought comfort and inspiration during these past few
challenging months. As lockdowns ease and we enter a new phase, we will continue to
share letters from the RSL’s community as a means of keeping us all connected. 

Today’s is from RSL Member Jan Woolf, who has chosen Hamela Malek‘s
poem ‘Leaving Afghanastan’, written about her last day in Afghanistan and the emotio
n she felt during the time when she left her hometown. Hamela was awarded 2nd Prize in
our 2018 Poems For Peace competition, which marked 100 years since the death of
Wilfred Owen by inviting 11-to-18-year-olds to write a poem for the future they want to see,
and about what peace means to them.


Illustration by Anna Trench


Poems for Peace Competition – 2nd-Prize: read Halema Malak’s poem about her last day in Afghanistan
and the emotion she felt during the time when she left her hometown.

Leaving Afghanistan

I go back to that day and find
the room almost empty,
everything neatly presented as if
it had never been used. The door
is open to the hallway, and
to my right, the kitchen door
is open for the animals, so their eyes
look straight through the sad house
through the weeping and the chink
of light guides me outside where
the hot sun reflected on the windows
and the beautiful trees, the grass
and flowers dying for lack of water.
I slowly walk to the crowd
gathered near the main door, pass
the people talking, crying, to where
a girl aged ten stands with her shoulders stiff
her body shaking silently. Someone shouts
and the girl turns round. Her puffy red eyes
stare through me. Her pain could be seen
by a blind man. But she can’t see 

what journey she’s going to take 

Halema Malak
16 years old
Oxford Spires Academy


“I chose Halema Malek’s ‘poem for peace,’ because home is everything right now; friend,
companion, parent and sometimes lover with its arms around us. As a child it’s your world,
as it is for us in lockdown. I was nearly uprooted at her age; an upgrade not flight,
peacetime not war. We didn’t go, yet I relate to all her emotions. Home is who we are, and
Halema lingering on those objects, drawing them up into her soul is very moving. The
blind man seeing into her heart is wonderful.” Jan Woolf

Where I’m Writing From… 
“I’m an RSL Member, and writer-in-residence at Pentameters Theatre London, finishing
my novel in solitary. Currently reading Bill Johnson’s translation of Stone Upon Stone by
Wieslaw Mysliwiski.”
Only Connect by RSLiterature
Somerset House, Strand London, WC2R 1LA United Kingdom
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One Response to Isolona 19

    1. Dear Jan
      I’m impressed with your work and ways you are thinking
      I feel lucky and privileged to meet you
      Wish you all the best
      Slavica Plemic

      Comment by slavica plemic on 2 June, 2023 at 6:00 am

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