La Poesia italiana del Novecento - The italian Poetry of the 20th century

Claudio Damiani









The charming hippos that in the water were

completely submerged (you could see the tips

of their backs, just barely) do you

remember them, my love? How deliciously

charming they were! And you said: "Where are they?

If you can't see them, how can you say

they're lovely?" Oh, my love, they were

in the water, and maybe you knew not the

Italian word when I said: "Darling!

Hippos there are that, having

seen the world, return to the water,

quite rightly, with the other mammals

emancipated from the sea." And when

of the two one emerged, the delicious warmth

of the water and the kisses of his mate

abandoning, to breathe and bite a bit

of mire on the bank (how disgusting!

we thought, and I said: "What a foul

mouth he must have!") and suddenly his mouth

he opened in yawning, as far as it would

go. How white and rosy were

his fangs! And how surprised

you were, what a precious start

you gave! And with how many kisses

would I have showered you, but I must needs

drive on, for the other cars

had amassed behind us

and were a menacing and stupid herd.


( translated by John Satriano)







Albio is the little walnut tree at the left

of the road climbing from the house

to the gate. This morning passing by

I looked at him and saw he had

made little walnuts, in pairs, biggish

already, bright green, a bit sparse,

not a lot but oh so lovely and I thought

that last year he hadn't made any

yet, and this year was the first time

he was making them, and I also looked at

his leaves, clear and perfect and oval,

without a blemish, without a single spot

or hole, nothing, and at his high little

branches too, down to his smooth and slender white

trunk and at the perfect and graceful form

of the whole little tree, standing straight

in the light, and I thought: Everywhere I look,

the apple trees, the pear and plum trees, the two

little cypresses bent by the snow,

the roses, even the weeds!

are sick, but, Albio, you are so healthy

and bright, beautiful and neat

and you're standing in your lovely corner

in the light; and I thought (and it was as if

he were waiting for someone

or something), I thought: they're all sick

in some way or other, there isn't one without

something, and it was up to me to cure them,

that's right, give them poisons, prune their

branches, and instead I haven't done a thing,

and before long I'll have to leave home too

and all this, the pair of little cypresses

and Antenor the first to bloom in the

apple grove, and the fig and pine trees, both dead,

and the roses and the weeds growing

without respite and the garden of the one I love,

all will I have to leave, all, and

Albio, you are so lovely, oh why,

why are you so healthy and lovely, Albio?

Who for? I thought, who for?... and I could almost

hear his quiet breath and already I was

chasing a crooked shadow away and

a sparkle in the light and already I wanted to

see him no more, and down the street I returned

and I knew not your glory, no,

I knew it not, I knew nothing at all,

and my eyes were filling with tears.


( translated by John Satriano)




A luminous dawn was arriving at the windowpanes

I'd woken up, I know not how

but as if I were still asleep

or as if no passage had taken place,

I saw the dawn on the glass, and it seemed to me,

now as I look back on it in my memory,

seeing my boyhood room

with its desk, its books

and its white window curtains,

it seemed to me that it turned,

as if suspended, that it went off

without stopping in the wind...

But I still see the room, there's light,

the birdsong outside is astounding,

and the metal net of the roses

and Marsilio's vegetable garden, and in what tree

the little birds? Now awakened

in the pale light, in what tree are they?

On what branches do they hop? The light

I see, them I hear, but I see them not.

And the dawn goes off with the wind, the room recedes

into bluer and deeper space...

And you see them one by one and take them

in your luminous, golden hands.



( translated by John Satriano)





Walking along your way,

path, or maybe it's you walking inside me,

maybe you are the creature

and I a road, a way.

Because, how whole you are,

how well made you are, and shapely

in all your parts.

And when I meet you, you seem alive to me

for you come to meet me, happy,

or when the rain is beating down, and you stand motionless

as the cows, without seeking shelter,

already the water is chattering

and you become a stream.



( translated by John Satriano)







Sweet little duckling

it's night now, you've fallen asleep,

you've lain down in water or on land close to shore, I know not which,

maybe hidden in the rushes, in the dry leaves.

You've closed your eyes, you little darling,

you saw the evening come,

the rosy twilight and then the dark,

a gust of wind blew up, did you feel it?

and lo and behold everything turned black,

you felt the stones, tepid by the shore,

you were afraid of something, I don't know what,

but then you played with a leaf,

you tried to sink it in the water with your beak.

The hands of my love were far from your feathers,

my love could not see you, she was unable to kiss you,

but a sweet slumber came over your eyes

and you fell asleep,

in water or on land close to shore, I know not which.



( translated by John Satriano)







How lovely that this time

is like all other times,

that I write poems

the way poems have always been written,

that this cat before me is washing herself

and her time is passing

despite the fact she's alone, almost always alone in the house,

yet she does all that she does and forgets nothing

-- now for instance she is lying down and looking around --

and her time is passing.

How lovely that this time, like every time, will end,

how lovely that we are not eternal,

that we are not different

from anyone else who has lived and died,

who has calmly gone to death

as if on a path that seemed hard and steep at first,

but instead was easy.



( translated by John Satriano)






What is your name?

What is your name.

What is the name of that little bird

that has just landed on the sidewalk

and is pecking at the ground?

And now at school, while the girls are writing,

I look on the class list at their names,

names I hadn't seen yet.

And for a few, they seem strange,

as if things apart from them,

and I think: Girls, I would have given you other names,

but I don't utter these words.

And I look at their unrestrained joy,

like a dazzling waterfall

scattering through time,

like seeds separating

and then all of them coming together again.


( translated by John Satriano)




While the students write the theme

their heads bent on the paper

the room of the class rest quiet

and shine a light around their heads.

I look them, and their strongness pungles me

- a girl has come for asking me something

and in their blue eyes I get lost-

some girls are less beautyful

but in their traits I see again the glory

of latin women

the august manner and the note features

- I think to young prenestine woman, very anchient

adorned of jeweleryes, elegants

and to poor maidens, peasants girls, pastorals

of the darkest siecles -

and also to the boys, how glory upon their heads.

And in all of them, how many expectations, how many hopes

- those amongs all my students are the oldest,

they are already grown up -

and I think : how did I say nothing to them!

how could I do nothing? - couldn't I? -

just worried to be a teacher,

in the rush I am always, and

as if I never realized about them.

And I am surprized of having been able

still to float in this light abyss,

and of having been unhurt, sace, amongs such strongness of


trough so much calm sea, as in a celest sky.


( translated by Marta Massaioli)