Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Many, many years ago, I remember listening to ABC Radio National. I was transfixed by a voice, by words woven. Wislawa Symborska (Nobel Peace Prize in Literature, 1996) was reading from a collected works of poems she had just published. Her words were like treacle to a thirsty soul; but not sticky. Rather, they were spacious, deliberate; simultaneously questioning and assuring. She looked at microcosms and spoke to entire worlds.
Arriving here to begin this course, landing, checking in, all of us proudly wearing various affectations and posturing in one way or another. Our – certainly my – door closed in the evenings with dampened feelings, sounding like the cold, heavy thud of a bank vault locking. Do not make a ripple, do not shed a tear, one-way traffic only. In all honesty, I felt like a small, saliva laden spitball that had been catapulted forwards by a tired, overworked, frazzled rubber band. Such as the peace work we do. It asks us to dark places, to discomfort, to war, to conflict, to the impoverished, the traumatized. It asks us to pick up these broken pebbles, fix them, and build a strong bridge for and of them.
But no. No, these days do not allow for that. My colleagues, my teachers, my learning, and even this country, do not allow for that. Instead the world, our worlds come crashing forth; gentle and loud, tired and hopeful. The sound builds until it crashes past the doorways of judgment and preconception and you are forced to listen with heart, with mind, with body and breath. And now, nothing was ever like it was before. We speak of shared collisions, and in unison, and in many shades, we are a whole consumed by our willingness to ease pain, to bring joy, to support each other and protect and support that fragile bird we call peace. So perhaps it is only now, many, many years later that I truly understand Wislawa’s words.
Under One Small Star
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all.
Please, don’t be angry, happiness that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.
I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.
Pardon me, deserts that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage, your gaze always fixed on the same point in space, forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers.
Truth, please don’t pay me much attention.
Dignity, please be magnanimous.
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train.
Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then.
My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once.
My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and each man. I know I won’t be justified as long as I live, since I myself stand in my own way.
Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words, then labor heavily so that they may seem light.
Karin Mayer– Australia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 22