Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Diane Kerr: A Positive Lexicography

post Orlando, 2016

[a small boy, a young woman, forty-nine people]


In our new world only certain words

shall be allowed.


We will still say ahimsa (Sanskrit)

meaning non-harm, love.


If we need to stroke the spirit

we shall say apapachar (Nahuatl).


If we need to remember the hidden

vulnerability of others, we shall say socha (English, new coinage).


[a boy wading, a young woman singing, people dancing]


In our new world we shall offer each other jeong

(Korean) deep affection, and we will still say ahimsa,

(Sanskrit) meaning non-harm, meaning love.


We shall think about dusa (Russian) our

inner hearts and souls, think about kokoro (Japanese)

our hearts and minds combined; we will still


say ahimsa (Sanskrit) meaning non-harm, love,


we shall remember melmastia (Arabic) the obligation

to offer sanctuary and respect, remember


our orenda (Huron) the power to change the world

in the face of the terrible; we will remember to muraqaba (Arabic)

watch over, take care of each boy, each young woman, each person,


we shall samar (Arabic) sit together in conversation at sunset,

at evening, in the ukiyo (Japanese) in the the floating

world in the transient moments of fleeting beauty


over and over we will say ahimsa, (Sanskrit)


meaning non-harm, meaning love.


[a boy drowned, a singer silenced, 49 dancers stilled]


In our new world we shall gather the beloveds,

their bodies give a cacharpaya (Spanish) a send off

for someone going away, a parea (Greek) a party


a revelry, give each of the lost Geborgenheit (German)

a feeling of safety and protection, find each

a cwtch (Welsh), a welcoming place.


And over and over we shall say pole (Swahili)

meaning “I’m sorry for your misfortune”


each to each other, pole, pole, pole

Copyright 2016 Diane Kerr.

This poem is adapted from Positive Lexicography by Tim Lomas, a London psychologist. Dr. Lomas’ glossary is a list of 450 untranslatable words from 62 languages, all having do with well-being. 



The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolises the Jain Vow of Ahimsa. The word in the middle is “Ahimsa”. The wheel represents the dharmacakra which stands for the resolve to halt the cycle of reincarnation through relentless pursuit of truth and non-violence.

4 comments on “Diane Kerr: A Positive Lexicography

  1. Debra Jan Owen
    April 16, 2017

    transforming. thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anne Picone
    July 11, 2016

    The white space allowed me to pause and ponder each term in the pleas for caring.
    Anne Picone

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Doralee Brooks
    July 10, 2016

    I heard Diane read this poem two weeks ago and was overwhelmed with its emotional power and beauty. I’m so glad it’s published.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jbauer103waolcom
    July 10, 2016

    Thank you, Diane, for this deeply thoughtful and resonant poem.

    Liked by 2 people

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