Arriving in Workshop Story


Arriving in a Workshop Story

© Reginald Dorian Haarhoff, D Phil, 2013

“Let us say I am here because of you
and you are here because of me.”



we’ve arranged the chairs
in café style, six to a table.
when we begin the story
only half of the people are here
though all the workshop seats

17th century miniature of Nasreddin, Ropkapi Palace Museum Library

have bodies sitting in them.

one’s still traveling on the crowded train.
a mother still burps her child, fevered on her hip.
another slumps with a black cloud boss problem.
the man at the back table yawns like a hippo
trapped in a falling high rise dream.
one mutters “I don’t have time for this.”

we tell of Nasrudin riding his donkey
down an open road when he spies men
on their donkeys, trotting towards him.
he fears they are thieves come to do him harm

in a rush of silence
the other half of each participant
shows up. you can see
the sudden arrival in their eyes
and the way their bodies lean in to the tale
in the curious shape of the question mark –
what will happen next?

by the time Nasrudin dismounts
and climbs over a cemetery wall,
tumbling into an open grave,
the work-shoppers are riding with him
on the donkeys their ancestors in-spanned
to pull carts down dust roads in trying times
with belongings bundled high above them.

as they listen, what’s deep inside climbs
out of the hole under the floor boards
of the venue and sits at the table.
for the other donkey men turn out to be neighbors
who ask Nasrudin, “why are you hiding in an open grave?”

by the time we share Nasrudin’s response,
people are sipping the narrative
rich as a cappuccino,
with a heart motif in the foam.
froth and muffin crumbs line their lips.

now they sit relaxed at this roadside inn
connecting story to story, each to each,
while the donkeys, grazing green grass,

bray in unison, exchanging wisdom
for work and well-being.


DR REGINALD DORIAN HAARHOFF, D Phil English Literature University of York, England is a facilitator, speaker, mentor, narrative practitioner. He has held academic posts in Namibia, South Africa, Canada and the USA. Dorian is the author of The Writer’s Voice: a workbook for writers in Africa. He focuses on the use of narrative, anecdote and metaphor as critical contributors to successful business interventions. He is based in Cape Town, South Africa and may be contacted at:, email:

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