Connections – Week Four


Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), from his collection Gitanjali (1910)


Warum ischs ächt so schwerig
vo siner Zyt chli z’gää.
Zuezlose und sech sälber
nöd gar so wechtig z’nää ?
Me gääb am andere so veel,
wörd sälber froo deby.
Mängs Gsprääch chönti en Aafang
zuener neue Fröndschaft sy.
Me gsächti mee zfredni Gsechter,
vellecht au weniger Stryt.
Dezue bruuchtis nöd mängs,
nur äbe . . . . . . e chli Zyt !

(Rough Translation:
Why might it be so difficult to give a little of one’s time, to listen and not to be so self-important?
One would give so much to somebody else, and be happy about it. Many a conversation could be the beginning of a new friendship.
One would see so many more happy faces, maybe be less arguments. It needs so little but . . . . . . just a little time.)

Swiss Dialect poet Anita Schorno-Flury
Translation and thanks to Elisabeth Smith in London


Silence across the city,
Like a child content with a lullaby.
The wind whistles freely,
Through the empty streets,
With no resistance.

The flapping wings of pigeons,
Where once was the hum of traffic.
The lonely footsteps of a few,
As the stealthy cyclists glide by.

effortless is peace,
Like a warm blanket during the autumnal chill.
Mankind is but a spectre,
In exile with its own thoughts.

Nature is here.
Possessions are poison.
The city is liberated from the daily grind,
To lie back and take stock,
Or will it wait impatiently,
For the season to change?
For the storm to pass,
It has weathered worse.

It stands again in solitude,
My city,
My home,
My beating heart.

Thanks to Ronny Jhutti in London


Whatever the bird is, is perfect in the bird.
Weapon kestrel hard as a blade’s curve,
thrush round as a mother or a full drop of water
fruit-green parrot wise in his shrieking swerve –
all are what bird is and do not reach beyond bird.

Whatever the bird does is right for the bird to do –
cruel kestrel dividing in his hunger the sky,
thrush in the trembling dew beginning to sing,
parrot clinging and quarrelling and veiling his queer eye –
all these are as birds are and good for birds to do.

But I am torn and beleaguered by my own people.
The blood that feeds my heart is the blood they gave me,
and my heart is the house where they gather and fight for dominion –
all different, all with a wish and a will to save me,
to turn me into the ways of other people.

If I could leave their battleground for the forest of a bird
I could melt the past, the present and the future in one
and find the words that lie behind all these languages.
Then I could fuse my passions into one clear stone
and be simple to myself as the bird is to the bird.

Judith Wright (1915-2000)
Thanks to Daljeet Jutla in Windsor


I followed a sea-swift to both sides of this text;
her hyphen stitched its seam, like the interlocking
basins of a globe in which one half fits the next

into a globe, except that its meridian
was not North or South but East and West. One, the New

World, made exactly like the Old, halves of one brain,
or the beat of both hands rowing that bear the two
vessels of the heart with balance weight and design…

Derek Walcott (1930-2017), from his epic poem, Omeros (1990)


Not even our eyes are our own…
– Frederico Garcia Lorca, The House of Bernarda Alba

I want to tune in to the surface, beside the mayfly
listen to how she holds her decorum on the skin of the pond.

I want to sequester words, hold them in stress positions,
foreignate them, string them up to ripen on vines.

and I want to commune with rain and for the rain to be
merciful, a million tiny pressures on my flesh.

I refuse to return as either rose or tulip but wish
to be planted under the desiring night sky.

I want to be concentrated to a line under the pleat of your palm
and for it to radiate opalesque under shadow.

I want God’s fingers to break and for you to watch as I
fold over my sleeve, reveal the detail of my paling wrist.

Mona Arshi, from her collection Small Hands (2015)
Thanks to Mona in London.


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about…
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)
Thanks to Holly Aylett in London