Losing a Staring Contest

for Mira, at four

Sometimes when the steady
stream of her chatter dips
quietly underground
and all her galloping vim
returns to the trough of her body
to feed, I too become still,
tethered to the fixed brown
of her eyes, which, though the rest
of her seems keen to disown

the daily hand-me-downs
of itself, are already the size
they’ll be when she is grown,
and flaring in them I see,
as if projected on a wall
by the light of a match, the shadow
of the creature she will be
in time, when, with luck,
I’ll be old, but not gone—

Giovanni Pascoli: Orphan

Slowly the snow drifts down, drifts down.
And listen: a cradle is quietly sighing.
An old woman sings in her dressing gown;
a child, his hands at his mouth, is crying.
Around your small crib, the old woman sings,
grow roses and lilies and all pretty things.
The child falls asleep as pretty things grow.
And down drifts the snow—so slowly, so slow.

 

Orfano

Lenta la neve fiocca, fiocca, fiocca.
Senti: una zana dondola pian piano.
Un bimbo piange, il piccol dito in bocca;
canta una vecchia, il mento su la mano.
La vecchia canta: Intorno al tuo lettino
c’è rose e gigli, tutto un bel giardino.
Nel bel giardino il bimbo s’addormenta.
La neve fiocca lenta, lenta, lenta.

Giuseppe Ungaretti: San Martino del Carso

Of these houses
there remain
only a few
pieces of wall

Of so many
who resembled me
there remains
even less

But in my heart
each has a cross

My heart is the most
broken country

Lone Tree Gully, August 27, 1916

San Martino del Carso

Di queste case
non è rimasto
che qualche
brandello di muro

Di tanti
che mi corrispondevano
non è rimasto
neppure tanto

Ma nel cuore
nesssuna croce manca

È il mio cuore
il paese più straziato

Valloncello dell’Albero Isolato il 27 agosto 1916