Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cool Poem

A poem by Camillo Sbarbaro:


From sleep I wake alone in dead of night,
the house a soundless void. Out there,
a harbor glitters, silent, with its lamps.
But so far removed, so frigid are those lights,
and so immense the stillness of these rooms,
that I raise myself in bed to listen.
And am seized, then, with a fear that stops my breath
and makes my eyes enlarge:
divided from all else within the house,
divided from all else that is on earth,
my life and I are utterly alone.

The though, then, of the familiar streets
and of the daily names and faces
reasserts itself.
And, smiling for my own absurdity, I settle down.
Yet, even so, when fear dissolves in sleep,
at heart an icy residue persists,
because in trught I walk among my fellow-men
as an observer.
And have not one within whose hands to place
my own simple trust,
or with whom I can forget myself.
So much so, that were it not
for Nature, for the waters and the trees
and all the speechless world of things
that bears me company through this existence,
I think that I would die of solitude.
For this journey undertaken among strangers,
encompassed by a void,
arouses dread,
and the certainty that it will be forever.

Most cruelly of all,
my eyes are dry.

(Translated, from the Italian, by Shirley Hazzard; published in The New Yorker on November 19, 1990.
It is interesting to me that--almost exactly 17 years to the publishing date--I just this week uncovered a copy of the poem.)

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