National Poetry Day: Against Hate, by Pippa Little

Sole passenger on an early morning tram
I'm half asleep when the driver brakes,
dashes past me, dives into a copse of trees,
gone for so long I almost get out to walk.
Then he's back, his face alight.
I saw the wren!  Explaining
how he feeds her when he can
and her restless, secretive waiting.
We talk of things we love until the station.

I tell him of the Budapest to Moscow train
brought to a halt in the middle of nowhere,
everyone leaning out expecting calamity
but not the engine driver, an old man
kneeling to gather armfuls of wild lilies,
wild orchids.  He carried them back
as you would a newborn, top-heavy, gangly,
supporting the frail stems in his big, shovel hands.
These are small things, but I pass them on

because today is bloody, inexplicable
and this is my act, to write,
to feel the light against my back.

©  Pippa Little
from Twist, published by Arc, 2017

This is my favourite poem from Pippa Little's new collection, Twist, recently published by Arc.  Pippa generously let us use this poem in our anthology 'Write to be Counted', raising money for PEN International - an organisation that defends freedom of speech and the rights of writers all over the world.

The theme of National Poetry Day this year is 'Freedom'.   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".  Nelson Mandela glossed this by saying that "to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others".  The world is a perilous place at the moment - 'bloody, inexplicable' - as Pippa writes.  We need words like this more than ever.

Twist, by Pippa Little, Arc Publications, 2017

Postscript: -
The National Poetry Society's Stanza 2017 Competition, on the theme 'Walls', was won by Konstandinos Mahoney, who appears in 'Write to be Counted', and among the runners up were several more contributors including Joan Michelson and John Gohorry. 


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