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Monday, 29 June 2009

To Ungaretti


File:Ungaretti Giovane.jpg

On high the fables blaze

The aurora australis came and went
It was lost in the past
You lasted

Wherever you are read now
a searchlight beacon reaches
into fog

Born in the shade of the beam of
the great lighthouse
of Alexandria

you knew the hard
Egyptian stars
twenty years
before you set foot
on the factual shore
of Italy
to begin
a pilgrimage
in silence
at night
in the dark
over mountains
fragmented bodies

On high the fables blaze
at the first hint of a breeze
they'll flutter to earth
with the leaves
but when the wind picks
up again
there will be a new star
in the southern sky

When you were old and silvery and raging
You wrote You were shattered

At eighty
you gave
Ed Sanders
one of your pubic hairs
to sell to speculators
to pay the costs
of his poetry magazine

At that same time
Ted Berrigan
was constructing an homage to you
deliberately mistranslated

Tootin' My Horn on Duty

Your poetry burned out of your soul
by the suffering around you
in the most horrible of wars
remains as hard as bits of stars

When I think about you now
I always remember that

under the Southern Cross’s wild conflagration
your father
helped build
the Suez Canal


Giuseppe Ungaretti, c. 1915 (photographer unknown)
Aurora australis and Southern Cross, viewed from Dunedin, New Zealand: photo by James Dignan, 2006


Dale said...

Tom, thanks for this on Ungaretti--a poet I know too little about. And I've been in an Italian mood lately, too, watching Visconti's The Damned and The Leopard. Both are marvelous, but the latter really was something--and is based, as I'm sure you know, on the novel by Lampedusa. Anyway, thanks for this--I'll look up Ungaretti's work.

TC/BTP said...


Thanks. The vision is not what it was so reading is not easy but with Ungaretti, no problem. To paraphrase Joe Tex, skinny lines and all. I find I can read him in my mind, no book, as on desert island. Immensity/illuminates me!