This touching poem, written for Ribka's young daughter, works like a charm that initiates her into the magical world of language.

Italian is a gendered language - 'word', 'parola' is feminine - and Ribka uses this to its full extent; a quality that, of course, is lost in English. In the first stanza, Andre's literal translation captures this by referring to the 'she-stranger'. We changed this to 'wandering / woman', which sounds more natural in English.

We realised that the verbs beginning the second to fourth stanzas - 'Touch', 'Play' and 'Speak' - are imperatives (commands) rather than the third-person singular (even though they look identical in Italian) and this helped us with the perspective of the poem: Ribka is commanding words what they must do on her daughter's behalf.