Week 34: 29 April 2012
Poet and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
To Speak of Distance
To speak of distance, the sanctuary lamp:
something you must do or find
and a world you must escape. Never mind
ghost-rumours of an immigration gate.
Grab a revamped passport. Speak of hope,
born as she always is on the site of loss:
a cinnamon bird
with a thousand resistance strategies
fretting her wings like mica charms
or ancient pilgrim songs
sewn into the Book of Psalms. The task
is to assimilate - to move between
the languages, in your case
Hebrew, Arabic, Norwegian, Greek –
and celebrate your journey to the shrine.
Everyone’s crossing is a pilgrimage.
The hard thing is to pass; harder still, to fold
those wings, to drop the mask
and translate old words
into new. Jump to it – you’ll find
fresh bearings somewhere for a crossing-place.
This is our exodus: cliffs of fall
on a floating island. Here is our constitution.
Look, here are the moon and sun
in never-before-seen positions, struggling to be heard.
Listen to Ruth Padel performing her poem here.
Ruth Padel is an award-winning British poet. Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Zoological Society of London, and an Ambassador for New Networks for Nature. Her most recent book The Mara Crossing is a meditation in prose and poems on all aspects of migration, human and animal .