I hate Silence most of all,
wherever it is I yell, scream and call . . .

So wrote Chief Rabbi Kimbal (Hallelujah) O’Neil, as he styled himself on another piece of work I was rather taken by. Entitled ‘Snow’ it began,

Round about January it falls
At Big Ben, Parliament and St Paul’s . . .

Kimbal was a 14-year-old hell-raiser who loved words. But not for their own sake alone: he could think. Here is the end of a prose piece on ‘Colour’.

‘Colour is of the misformed, that which has colour is not perfect for each colour is more perfect more ugly than the other, the perfect has no colour, for colour is imperfect by itself, colour first must be made beautiful then combine with all other colour to form the perfect, the perfect as we do not yet know, the perfect which is yet to come, but for now we must put up with what we have, the white, the blue, the colour.’

When ‘Peace’ appeared as one of the alternatives on the blackboard I half expected him to lay into it as with ‘Silence’, in the unspoken classroom war that lay between us like a challenge. He did choose it and this is what he brought to my desk.

Peace is a walk by a stream
in summer with only the birds
Peace can’t be touched
only to be enjoyed but never held
Peace is peace and only that
Peace cannot be seen or heard
for if it could peace would be no more
To know but not to know
For Peace is an essence
a secret beautiful essence
and the essence is

The natural impatience which possessed him continued to wreak havoc in many of my lessons; but Kimbal – who may well be retired by now – epitomises for me a type of pupil I came to know well, and (at least in retrospect) enjoyed teaching more than any other. The recalcitrant gifted, who made my life hell, and every now and then lit up the sky with their work. I wish him a richly hell-raising retirement.

Share away: