Frantic with love, I knelt
at the Castalian Spring
but no freshet reflected
I have never seen
the piranha’s native waters where swimmers
wash back ashore, bones picked clean.
other waters work with us,
for us, and on us, with an indifferent
monstrous effort of recuperation.
What once they gave,
the waters take back, aided by Time, their unseen
double. And the laving of this feeble, tumid tide
has preyed on us since we abandoned fins
to sprout these limbs of ours—a malformation,
a sad joke which saddled us
with responsibility and bad conscience.
The seething junk my window overlooks—
trash, crates, cars heaped
in the courtyard below,
the slow, smoky flow that streams away
on its own account, ignoring our existence—
all this seemed final proof
that we’re here for something, a trap, a goal.
Seemed, not seems . . . Once upon a time
chestnuts burst in the hot coals, tapers glowed
on the Christmas presents. Now the demon
of the waters no longer bothers apprising us
that we, his spectators and accomplices,
are still only ourselves.
From Poetic Diary: 1972
Eugenio Montale, translated by William Arrowsmith
Arrowsmith‘s translations of Montale’s last works are newly collected and will shortly be posthumously published alongside his classic renditions in an edition edited by Rosanna Warren
Read from her introduction here
From The Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale: 1925-1977, translated by William Arrowsmith and edited by Rosanna Warren. Translation copyright © 2012 by Beth Arrowsmith, Nancy Arrowsmith, and Rosanna Warren.