from Xenia II
I've descended, your arm in mine, almost a million stairs
and now that you're not here a void opens at every step.
Even so, our long journey was brief.
Mine still goes on, though I no longer feel the need
for connections, reservations,
mix-ups, the scorn of those who believe
that reality is what one sees.
I've descended millions of stairs, your arm in mine,
not, of course, because four eyes see better than two.
I descended them with you because I knew
that between us the only true pupils,
however clouded over, were yours.
– Eugenio Montale, translated by Harry Thomas
Girl with a Fig Leaf
Girl by a Row of Cottages
Portrait of a Sick Man
This man you see here, portrayed in red and black
and who occupies the entire spacious picture
is me at the age of forty-nine wrapped up
in an ample dressing-gown that cuts the hands half off
as if they were flowers; you cannot tell whether the body
is lying down or is on a chair: it is like this with the sick
placed before windows framing the light of day –
another day doled out to eyes soon weary.
But when I ask the artist, my son of fourteen years,
whose portrayal he intended, he at once declares:
'One of those Chinese poets you had me read
as he gazes upon the world – in one of his last hours.'
What he says is true – now I remember giving him that book
which restores the heart with its celestial shores
and dark autumnal leaves: in it sages, or poets feigning sage
graciously take leave of life, their glasses raised.
Only I, who belong to a century that believes
it tells no lies, recognise in that sick man
myself lying to myself: and I take up my pen
to exorcise a sickness I do and do not believe in.
– Attilio Bertolucci, translated by Charles Tomlinson
A Fool Dancing
|Stanley William Hayter|
Myth of Creation
engraving, aquatint, etching
Punch and Judy
Interested Sperm around an Egg
Bare and humble
offspring of a plant
squared off as God willed
with every fibre
brace yourself lengthways sideways
daub yourself with a sign of fiery paint
they will come by night
they'll hurl themselves upon you
in an avalanche
howling with outspread wings
with punches kicks and curses
with the heads of rams
the stink of sulphur.
– Bartolo Cattafi, translated by Jamie McKendrick
The King of Hearts