The Hyphen

           For the centenary of Girton College

i hyphen (Gk. together, in one)
a short dash or line used to connect
two words together as a compound
to connect Chapel Wing and Library.
But also: to divide
for etymological or other purpose.
A gap in stone makes actual
the paradox of a centenary.
“It was a hyphen connecting different races.”
and to the library
“a bridge for migrations”.
In search of an etymology
                                             for compound lives,
this architecture,
                              an exercise in paleography
(Victorian Gothic)
                                asserts the same intention.
Portraits busts and books
                                             the “context in which we occur”
that teaches us our meaning,
                                                  ignore the lacunae
of a century
                      in their state-
ment of our need to hyphenate.

Veronica Forrest-Thomson, "The Hyphen" from Collected Poems and Translations. Copyright © 1971 by Veronica Forrest-Thomson.  Reprinted by permission of Allardyce, Barnett, Publishers.
Source: Collected Poems (Shearsman Books, 2008)
More Poems by Veronica Forrest-Thomson