Issue 103, Summer 1987
O barbarian’s pupil-eye encircled
by the sun-born verdure of the Po!
Italy has only one morning of life,
and with the larks of dawn the centuries sing
over the Padanian boy who knows no evening.
Now the shadows of the Appenine are flushed
and under a sun that’s almost warm,
along the Reno’s clear blue banks,
the rubbish heaps begin to smell. . . .
In the Tagliamento drowsy adolescents wash,
already shedding gravity among the swallows’ flights;
on the other shore, in sun, appears a shadow
and with angel’s voice the boatman yells.
At Portogruaro a train whistles, rueful;
at Caorle the first sails are motionless in blue
and in the heart of a Venetian boy
with glowing hair a bell resounds.
(Ingenuous pupil rekindled by the fields
where ducks have rose-red feathers
and grass-blue bares dance rapturous fugues
and, candid in the candor of the sun,
larks are singing in your tongue,
and ditches braid black freshnesses,
and clusters of black grapes sparkle on the bills
and bells sound light as air itself. . . .)
your well-being, sun-born Italy,
loves only boys who don’t love you,
locked in a body of violets that conceals
whether their Tongue is only a dream . . .
who crush you with their egoistic step,
who believe you their possession
or a possession of their families. . . .
The barbarian bad come down from the Alps.
In the foothills of Emilia, on the Reno,
no more lark’s voice, no more dialect,
but language now bad penetrated flesh,
the weight of destiny’s first days.
Then the primal bell bad fondled him,
the primal swallows come
to paint the sky in blue,
and the primal mother bad assailed his heart.
His soul was born in a Friulan hamlet
mixed up with a humid wall
and a stain of water-blackened grass,
his soul that believed itself unique
and danced with sparrows, butterflies.
In Twenty-two, year deep in the century,
Bologna breathed an air of waltzes.
Via Rizzoli, taut with perfumed evenings,
echoed in light, sonorous gold the music
pendant on the young girls brushing
the century with violet feathers.
In the teeming air of an Appenine sun
the happy shadow of the nation’s
virgin still, of a nascent fatherland!
Liberals, in the salubrious air’s aromas,
sparkled like the jeweler’s windows
and the Catholic plumpness of the Baroque
weighed only on the red facades of churches.
Parma—a street and my mother’s smile.
On this fleeting apparition
the twilight of a happy epoch
corroding, bleaching the Appenine’s gold.
And you, Italy, make a masterpiece of Parma
—white memories in the ducal squares,
leaves breathing velvet autumns in
Padanian boulevards. And it is Autumn
that gnaws the chestnuts of Via Sèmlia,
that bathes the underbrush transfixed in