March 2022

You took away all the oceans and all the room, Osip Mandelstam ' You took away all the oceans and all the room. You gave me my shoe-size in earth with bars around it.'
1915 I Know the Truth - Give up All Other Truths! , Marina Tsvetayeva (1892-1941) translated by Elaine Feinstein 'I know the truth - give up all other truths! No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle. Look - it is evening, look, it is nearly night: what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals? The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew, the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet. And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we who never let each other sleep above it. '
from Requiem, Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)Translated by Richard McKane 'The hour of remembrance has drawn close again. I see you, hear you, feel you: the one they could hardly get to the window, the one who no longer walks on this earth, the one who shook her beautiful head, and said: 'Coming here is like coming home.' I would like to name them all but they took away the list and there's no way of finding them. For them I have woven a wide shroud from the humble words I heard among them. I remember them always, everywhere, I will never forget them, whatever comes.'

Our March poems open with three 20th-century Russian poets, who spoke in their poems for all humanity.

You will find below our current set of tube poems, on themes of love, music, and the coming of spring, by Sasha Dugdale, Derek Walcott, Grace Nichols, Martin Bell, Raymond Antrobus and P.B. Shelley. The poems will be circulating on London Underground and Overground trains through March.

We also feature World Poems to celebrate World Poetry Day. We hope the poems will introduce a new audience to a broad range of world poetry: a celebration in many eloquent voices of our common humanity.

This month’s selection ends with Love Poems and poems for the start of Spring.

You can see all 44 of the poems in our World Poems leaflet here

New Poems on the Underground

Private Ownership by Sasha Dugdale ' I belong to you And, I am not afraid to say it, You belong to me. I am a private owner, it could be said. I will not share you with the nation – Nor collectivise you. We will indulge in dangerous dissolution And luxury and harmful intelligence And sleep in our own skins And go scented and unrepentant To the airport at the end. ' Reprinted by permission of Carcanet from Notebook (2003)
Love after Love by Derek Walcott ' The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.' Reprinted by permission of Faber from Collected Poems (1986)
Praise Song for My Mother by Grace Nichols 'You were water to me deep and bold and fathoming You were moon’s eye to me pull and grained and mantling You were sunrise to me rise and warm and streaming You were the fishes red gill to me the flame tree’s spread to me the crab’s leg/the fried plantain smell replenishing replenishing Go to your wide futures, you said' Reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown from I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe 2010)
The Songs by Martin Bell ' Continuous, a medley of old pop numbers – Our lives are like this. Three whistled bars Are all it takes to catch us, defenceless On a District Line platform, sullen to our jobs, And the thing stays with us all day, still dapper, still Astaire, Still fancy-free. We’re dreaming while we work. Be careful, keep afloat, the past is lapping your chin. South of the Border is sad boys in khaki In 1939. And J’attendrai a transit camp, Tents in the dirty sand. Don’t go back to Sorrento. Be brisk and face the day and set your feet On the sunny side always, the sunny side of the street ' Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books from Complete Poems (1988)
Upwards (for Ty Chijioke) after Christopher Gilbert by Raymond Antrobus ' The last place the sun reaches in my garden is the back wall where the ivy grows above the stinging nettles. What are they singing to us? Is it painless to listen? Will music soothe our anxious house? Speech falls on things like rain sun shades all the feelings of having a heart. Here, take my pulse, take my breath, take my arms as I drift off ' Reprinted by permission of Picador from All the Names Given (2021)
from Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley 'Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: What if my leaves are falling like its own! The tumult of thy mighty harmonies Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone, Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! Drive my dead thoughts over the universe Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! And, by the incantation of this verse, Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! Be through my lips to unawakened Earth The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?'

World Poems on the Underground

Belgrade by Vasko Popa, translated from the Serbo-Croat by Anne Pennington ' White bone among the clouds Your arise out of your pyre out of your ploughed-up barrows Out of your scattered ashes You arise out of your disappearance The sun keeps you In its golden reliquary High above the yapping of centuries And bears you to the marriage Of the fourth river of Paradise With the thirty-sixth river of Earth White bone among the clouds Bone of our bones'
The Undertaking by Louise Glück 'The darkness lifts, imagine, in your lifetime. There you are - cased in clean bark you drift through weaving rushes, fields flooded with cotton. You are free. The river films with lilies, shrubs appear, shoots thicken into palm. And now all fear gives way: the light looks after you, you feel the waves' goodwill as arms widen over the water; Love, the key is turned. Extend yourself - it is the Nile, the sun is shining, everywhere you turn is luck.'
My children by Choman Hardi I can hear them talking, my children fluent English and broken Kurdish. And whenever I disagree with them they will comfort each other by saying: Don't worry about mum, she's Kurdish. Will I be the foreigner in my own home? '
On Lake Nicaragua by Ernesto Cardenal (b.1925) Translated by the author and Robert Pring-Mill 'Slow cargo-launch, midnight, mid-lake, bound from San Miguelito to Granada. The lights ahead not yet in sight, The dwindling ones behind completely gone. Only the stars (the mast a finger pointing to the Seven Sisters) and the moon, rising above Chontales. Another launch (just one red light) goes by and sinks into the night. We, for them: another red light sinking in the night... And I, watching the stars, lying on the deck between bunches of bananas and Chontales cheeses, wonder: perhaps there's one that is an earth like ours and someone's watching me (watching the stars) from another launch, on another night, on another lake. '
Eavan Boland, The Emigrant Irish Poems on the Underground 1992 ' Like oil lamps we put them out the back, of our houses, of our minds. We had lights better than, newer than and then a time came, this time and now we need them. Their dread, makeshift example. They would have thrived on our necessities. What they survived we could not even live. By their lights now it is time to imagine how they stood there, what they stood with, that their possessions may become our power: Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parcelled in them. Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering in the bruise-coloured dusk of the New World. And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.' .''
POETRY LA POESIA by Pablo Neruda (1904-73) translated by Alastair Reid ' La Poesía Y fue a esa edad... Llegó la poesía a buscarme. No sé, no sé de dónde salió, de invierno o río.... And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where it came from, from winter or a river. I don't know how or when, no, they were not voices, they were not words, nor silence, but from a street I was summoned, from the branches of night, abruptly from the others, among violent fires or returning alone, there I was without a face and it touched me.'
giovanni caboto/john cabot by Earle Birney (1904-1995) ' fourteen hundred and ninety seven giovanni sailed from the coast of devon 52 days discovered cape breton n.s. caught some code went home with 10 bear hides (none prime) told henry 7 his majesty now owned cipango land of jewels abounding moreover in silks & brasilwode also the spice islands of asia & the country of the grand khan henry gave giovanni 30 quid to go back to nova scotia who was kidding who?'
Should You Die First by Annabelle Despard (b.1943) 'Let me at least collect your smells as specimens: your armpits, woollen sweater, fingers yellow from smoke. I'd need to take an imprint of your foot and make recordings of your laugh. These archives I shall carry into exile; my body a St Helena where ships no longer dock, a rock in the ocean, an outpost where the wind howls and polar bears beat down the door.'
From March ’79, Tomas Tranströmer, tr. John F. Deane 'Tired of all who come with words, words but no language I went to the snow-covered island'
Free, Merle Collins 'Born free to be caught and fashioned and shaped and freed to wander within a caged dream of tears'
Poetry , Saadi Youssef tr. Khaled Mattawa Calligraphy by Mustafa Ja'far Poems on the Underground 2006 'Who broke these mirrors and tossed them shard by shard among the branches? And now... shall we ask L'Akhdar to come and see? Colours are all muddled up and the image is entangled with the thing and the eyes burn. L'Akhdar must gather these mirrors on his palm and match the pieces together any way he likes and preserve the memory of the branch. '
Naima for John Coltrane, Kamau Brathwaite 'Propped against the crowded bar he pours into the curved and silver horn his own unhappy longing for a home'

Spring Poems on the Underground

A song for England, Andrew Salkey. Poems on the Underground poster 1991 'An' a so de rain a-fall An' a so de snow a-rain An' a so de fog a-fall An' a so de sun a-fail An' a so de seasons mix An' a so de bag-o'-tricks But a so me understan' De misery o' de Englishman.
Thaw by David Malouf (b.1934) ' The season midnight: glass cracks with cold. From lighted shop-windows girls half-sleeping, numb with frost step out. We warm their hands between our hands, we kiss them awake, and the planets melt on their cheeks. First touch, first tears. Behind their blue eyes darkness shatters its pane of ice. We step through into a forest of sunlight, sunflowers. '
Letters From Yorkshire by Maura Dooley (b.1957) ' In February, digging his garden, planting potatoes, he saw the first lapwings return and came indoors to write to me, his knuckles singing as they reddened in the warmth. It's not romance, simply how things are. You out there, in the cold, seeing the seasons turning, me with my heartful of headlines feeding words onto a blank screen. Is your life more real because you dig and sow? You wouldn't say so, breaking ice on a waterbutt, clearing a path through snow. Still, it's you who sends me word of that other world pouring air and light into an envelope. So that at night, watching the same news in different houses, our souls tap out messages over the icy miles'
The Lesson ( an anti-pastoral), Tracy Ryan 'The small schoolgirl on her way down grey Portugal Lane late for class who brushes a careless hand against the one green nettle that had to sprout from yards of concrete can't believe there's no dock leaf to cancel it out'
N.W.2: Spring by A.C. Jacobs (1927-1994) 'The poets never lied when they praised Spring in England. Even in this neat suburb You can feel there's something to their pastorals. Something gentle, broadly nostalgic, is stirring On the well-aired pavements. Indrawn brick Sighs, and you notice the sudden sharpness Of things growing. The sun lightens The significance of what the houses Are stepped in, brightens out Their winter brooding. Early May Touches also the cold diasporas That England hardly mentions. '
Greenwich Park by Herbert Lomas 'Spring's come, a little late, in the park: a tree-rat smokes flat S's over the lawn. A mallard has somehow forgotten something it can't quite remember. Daffodils yawn, prick their ears, push their muzzles out for a kiss. Pansies spoof pensive Priapus faces: Socrates of Verlaine. A cock-pigeon is sexually harassing a hen: pecking and poking and padding behind her impertinently, bowing and mowing. But when he's suddenly absent-minded- can't keep even sex in his head- she trembles, stops her gadding, doubts and grazes his way. He remembers and pouts.'

Love Poems on the Underground

Distances, Philippe Jaccottet (b.1925) Translated by Derek Mahon 'Les distances Tournent les martinets dans les hauteurs de l' air: plus haut encore tournent les astres invisibles. Que le jour se retire aux extrémités de la terre, apparaîtront ces feux sur l' etendue de sombre sable… Ainsi nous habitons un domaine de mouvements et de distances; ainsi le coeur va de l' arbre à l' oiseau, de l' oiseau aux astres lointains, de l' astre à son amour. Ainsi l' amour dans la maison fermée s' accroît, tourne et travaille, serviteur des soucieux portant une lampe à la main. Swifts turn in the heights of the air; higher still turn the invisible stars. When day withdraws to the ends of the earth their fires shine on a dark expanse of sand. We live in a world of motion and distance. The heart flies from tree to bird, from bird to distant star, from star to love; and love grows in the quiet house, turning and working, servant of thought, a lamp held in one hand. '
Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare 1998 Poster Poems on the Underground ' Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments; love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove'
A Birthday by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) 'My heart is like a singing bird Whose nest is in a watered shoot; My heart is like an apple-tree Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit; My heart is like a rainbow shell That paddles in a halcyon sea; My heart is gladder than all these Because my love is come to me. Raise me a dais of silk and down; Hang it with vair and purple dyes; Carve it in doves and pomegranates, And peacocks with a hundred eyes; Work it in gold and silver grapes, In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; Because the birthday of my life Is come, my love is come to me.'
The Gateway , A.D. Hope ' Now the heart sings with all its thousand voices To hear this city of cells, my body, sing. The tree through the stiff clay at long last forces Its thin strong roots and taps the secret spring. And the sweet waters without intermission Climb to the tips of its green tenement; The breasts have borne the grace of their possession, The lips have felt the pressure of content. Here I come home: in this expected country They know my name and speak it with delight. I am the dream and you my gates of entry, The means by which I waken into light'
Song: To Celia by Ben Jonson 'Drink to me only with thine eyes, And I will pledge with mine; Or leave a kiss but in the cup, And I’ll not look for wine. The thirst that from the soul doth rise Doth ask a drink divine; But might I of Jove’s nectar sup, I would not change for thine. I sent thee late a rosy wreath, Not so much honouring thee As giving it a hope, that there It could not withered be. But thou thereon didst only breathe, And sent’st it back to me; Since when it grows, and smells, I swear, Not of itself, but thee.'
Delay, Elizabeth Jennings, 1988 Poems on the Underground poster ‘The radiance of the star that leans on me Was shining years ago. The light that now Glitters up there my eyes may never see, And so the time lag teases me with how Love that loves now may not reach me until Its first desire is spent. The star's impulse Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful And love arrived may find us somewhere else.'
Longings by C.P. Cavafy ( 1863-1933) Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard 'Like the beautiful bodies of those who died before growing old, sadly shut away in sumptuous mausoleum, roses by the head, jasmine at the feet - so appear the longings that have passed without being satisfied, not one of the granted a single night of pleasure, or one of its radiant mornings.'

Your can see our Poems from February 2022 here