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Société des écrivains des Nations Unies à Genève United Nations Society of Writers, Geneva Sociedad de escritores de las Naciones Unidas

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Hazrat-e-waaiz jo maa-khanay may ah-phawnchay khabhi

Aap ki tahzeem ko sheeshay jhukay, saagar utt-hay.
A mullah/preacher wandered into the inn once –

In his honour the wine-decanter bowed, the glasses rose!

Naam ho ja-ay wafah-daaron main aaj Anwar ka

Jiss thurah utt-hayn yay sudmain, aay-dile-muztar utt-hah.
Let the name of Anwar be added to the faithful –

Oh sad heart bear this pain with fortitude.

(Shahjahanpur (British India), 1930)
Na wo shaaqh baaqi hai, na pathay hain, na thinkay hain –

Muggar jubb burruqh chamkee, moonh say niklaa: “Aashiyan mera!”
No longer is that branch there, nor leaf, nor twig –

But when the lightning struck, escaped from my lips: “My nest!”

(New Dehli (British India), 1944 - written upon hearing that his beloved might be betrothed to another).
Konayn ki woos-suth ko bhurhanayn wallay,

Hurr zurray main sudd raaz chuppanay wallay,

Laa-ay ga ko-ee khilqat-e-deedawur aur

Nuzrayn mayri ko-thah bunna-nay wallay.
The expander of the scope of the universe,

The hider of hundred secrets in each atom -

Will you bring other seers into being,

You who have narrowed my vision?

Anwar Shaheed, formerly ILO


The brightness of the moon was witness to such darkness -

Ugliness the moonlight could not overcome.

With the sorrow of the fat moon,

Big brown eyes watched sadly

As bombs killed the little curly tops.

The moon shed bitter tears

Unable to close its eye

Ashamed of the light it gives

To show the killing paths

Leading to Basra and Baghdad.
The sun rose painfully,

Braced itself to shine,

Blaming the moon for its deed.

Between the moon and the sun

Hearts and minds were lost

At the crack of desolate dawn.

Weeping at twilight

Yellowing in the dust

Embracing the dying sandstorm

Gagging the mirage of liberation,

The whittling moon waned away.

Ayse Sul Caglar & Zafar Shaheed, ILO

Departure, weeping half-moons

Un cadeau goes a long smile,

Cracking the face of affrontery

Misconstrued in the humid

Night of departure.
Perspiring backs front

The unfolding hues –

Kissing goodbyes to

Those who could

Change foreign into

Exchange un cadeau

Pour moi -

As she lets you go

Free into the cooling

Night of parting.

Squeezing eyes disbelieve,

Nostrils dilate, sniff in

Distaste for what went

Before and what comes

Heads hung low, necks stretched

Fatigued, slumber nodding –

Unseen shadows, people, the waiting

Room of time caught in circles:

Joy cantering catterwheeling askance,

Tumbling down pathways clearing

As ways part above overhead.
Patterns pattering against shut

Eyelids red in the foreign dawn,

On the heels of the weeping half-moon.

Zafar Shaheed, ILO

I ran through the city at sunrise,

Glad-hearted and light on my feet,

But the houses were blank-faced and shuttered

And never a soul in the street.
I ran through the vines in the morning,

Rejoicing that harvest was near,

But the grapes hung shrivelled and blackened,

The vineyard abandoned and sere.

I ran through the country at midday,

Where the corn had waved golden and tall,

But the fields were fallow and lifeless,

And no sound but a lone bird’s call.

At evening I ran through a graveyard

Where the headstones lay broken and bare,

But I did not stop once to read them

For fear my own name might be there.

Night came and I stood in the moonlight

As above me the stars wheeled by.

“Is there hope for mankind?” I whispered,

And I waited for God to reply.

And with the first paling of darkness,

In the little cold wind before dawn,

I felt a great peace enfold me

And all doubt was suddenly gone.

Now that Heaven has answered my question

In the new day just begun,

I will run with the stars in the heavens,

Seeking the sleeping sun.

Louise Bigwood, UNOG


A sparrow fell from the nest today -

Fell, or was pushed, or tried to fly?

Coming to rest in a flower pot,

A beady eye,

A yellow gape,

Silent and fearful at my passing by.

I wondered then if the nestling

In its bed of flowers

Would live or die -

A question I never needed to ask

For others were watching,

And a noisy parent with laden beak

Dropped from the sky,

Scolding and reassuring.
In a few days’ time when feathers have grown

My bird will fly off on unsteady wings –

Proof indeed that our Father in Heaven

Also cares for little things.

Louise Bigwood, UNOG

by Bernard Bouvier, UNOG

A thought never born

A word never spoken

A vow never kept

A life never lived

A story never told

A love never felt

A wind never blown

A journey never made

A face never seen

A soul that’s not been

A date never kept

A joy unknown

Sadness over all

Who has been, tell me

And why?
Like an arrow from the bow

Shot into arched flight

Scraping the sky’s undercover

Falling before the dawn

Into irrevocable night:

This thin ray

This spark of delight
This livid pain.
By riding comets

We can come again

Perhaps, instead,

When we are dead.
Antimatter fighting

The very existence

Of the thing--

itself unknown;

Outraged protest

Grinding teeth of rage.

In this callow age

Arch-ness is a way of life

Emptiness is rife
The wisdom passed to formulations.

Let ride and germinate

Steering a way through clouds:

Or else

The unerring plotted course

Of smug determination.

Trajectory known,

Mission done.

And yet the sea inside

Sends fingers to the brain

Not courses fixed

But lost peregrinations

Erring with the wind and rain.

If this be true, tell me

What other course there be,

What other will

And eye to see:

What other plotted course

On which trajectory?

And if an augur should be born

To leave its momentary will

To give us hope and then surpass

The rising of the dawn

And lead us to another star

And beyond, and farther still

To a place where moments pass

Unseen, ineluctable and far

Beyond their own trajectory

This place we’d name Ibranimar

Between what all would like to see:

The nearest and the farthest star.
And if a middle there should be

This middle we would call it ”love”

And place it like a mystery

As part of the sky above

With its circumference everywhere ,

Its spirit everywhere felt,

It is the center Ibranimar

Of love throughout the world.
Ray Barry, formerly UNIDO

no cassava, no beans

only half-a-bag of sorghum

left that can last a week

Mama Ngina has no milk

and the baby is sick and hungry
no rain for months, soil parched

my throat dry and lips cracked

sent girl to river to fetch

water three hours ago

sent boy to mountainside

to search for grass for goats

sun is very hot, must stay inside

the hut all afternoon, tomorrow

I get up early, to take baby

to government clinic, I hope

they have Muzungu medicine

and mosquito net

Yesterday we bury baby
whole village very sorry

chief come, show sympathy

big sadness lasted for months

everybody quiet, no laughter

in the family
and then, suddenly

last night first big rain fell

tomorrow I plant seeds
of sorghum, cassava and beans
and the harvest will be good

and we will have plenty of food

and Mama Ngina’s breasts

will fill with milk for new baby

who will grow up healthy

and strong, and go to school

to learn to read and write,

and go to big town to find

big job and be big man

make a lot of money

and build big house

In the village for the whole family

And Mama Ngina and I

will grow old and die

and go meet ancestors

on the other side of the mountain

Zeki Ergas, UNSW/SENU

I get up

I get up in the morning

I get up in the morning very

I get up in the morning very very tired

I get up in the morning very very tired, stumble

I get up in the morning very very tired, stumble into

I get up in the morning very very tired, stumble into the kitchen

I get up in the morning very very tired, stumble into the kitchen, make

I get up in the morning very very tired, stumble into the kitchen, make tea

I get very very up-tired, stumble tea in the morning, make into the kitchen

Make tired I tea, stumble the very get-up into the very morning, in kitchen

I, the tea-tired, make up the kitchen, get into the morning, very in, very

Morning! Tired? Very? Make tea! I? Get into the stumble! Kitchen-up into the very!

Very very tea I make in kitchen, get up the morning, the stumble into tired

Tired make-up? In the very I? Very morning-stumble? Get into the tea-kitchen!

Get up the very into the in-very: kitchen-stumble, tea-make, morning-tired, I.

Morning-tea. In kitchen. Get up? Into stumble? Make the very? The Very!!! I tired.

Stumble very kitchen the very morning, get up into tea.

In the make: tired I

Sygun Schenck, UNSW/SENU

drawing by

Bernard Bouvier, UNOG


A vertical stroke of white make–up

on her naked back

covered with sweat

A painted line that parallels her spine -

prolonged sign of a strange tribe -

initiation into a world

she never desired

A white arrow

that points towards a rite

she does not understand

Desperate feet condemned to dance

in the land of spoken tales

where words are true

but may betray

the breathing heart

A cloud of tulle

pressed onto a trembling body

with both hands

spread out for a second

to reveal small bare breasts

vulnerably exposed to our eye

the heartbeat visible

beneath the skin

When her arms close again

we know that there will never be

the heavy thrum

of flapping wings or

the comfort of love

She is the Queen –

swan for eternity

a mind that cracks into pieces

while the mist

lingers above the lake

Sygun Schenck, UNSW/SENU


The squatting Arab tells me

about the Marabout’s hut,

shabby, sandy

red and black domed

a miniature mosque,

walls lined with tiny holes

where dust-covered people from all around

came to stick their wishes,

strongest hopes and meannesses.

Some write them out

on worn strips of paper—

“May the wife of my brother

come to her senses.”

Others would whisper into

a small dark cloth,

hold it to their lips

so the words might permeate

the material, discreetly pin it

to the wall.

Still others would put

their cheeks against

the dryness

thinking only of their desire-

completing it, they would roll

their forehead against the grittiness

letting it take wing.

I am myself turning

into a little bit of paper

that I might fit into that wall

surrounded by others’ needs,

longings, becoming

lighter, freer, rising skyward

in open heat

something ardent and unknown

on its way to coming true.

Beth Peoc’h, UNCTAD

A legend man

gave me a wooden hook,

small enough to wear on a string

around my neck,

strong enough to pull an island

out of the sea.

He thought it could bring force

into my life, didn’t know how it would

clear my eyes. Now looking

down the hoophouses

lining the vineyards

I see rows of jellyfish fluttering

in the running wind,
see them turn into

white revival tents

clapping, pinned to the hill, will they lead

down to water,

bring some into faith?
Where a river might whirl in a vortex,

and I could imagine a nautilus fossil

in my hand

its energy spinning outward,

life mapped into stone

how many millions of years ago?

Overhead I see milky clouds flying,

changing without end

swirling, curling as the hook itself.

Look up I say,

become dizzy,

giddy from movement

of wind caressing clouds,

the rattling of all good things;

after living on fire’s edge

how laughter

unexpected and heady

rises out of us.

We are new,

strong enough to become an island.

Beth Peoc’h, UNCTAD

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