Sunday, July 08, 2012

Love on Earth

—Photo by Frank Dixon Graham, Sacramento

—Eugenio Montale

The eel, the siren
of cold seas,
who leaves the Baltic for our seas,
our estuaries, rivers, rising
deep beneath the downstream flood,
from branch to branch, from twig to smaller twig,
ever more inward,
bent on the heart of rock,
muddy passages, until one day
light glancing off the chestnuts strikes
her slithering in stagnant pools,
in the ravines cascading down
from the Appennine escarpments to Romagna;
eel, torch, whiplash
arrow of Love on earth,
whom only our gullies
or dried-up Pyrenean brooks draw back
to Edens of generation;
green spirit that finds life
where only drought and desolation sting;
spark that says that everything
begins when everything
seems charcoal, buried stump;
brief rainbow, iris,
twin to the one your lashes frame
that you set shining virginal among
the sons of men, sunk in your mire—
can you fail to see her as a sister?

(trans. from the Italian by Jonathan Galassi)