Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Lucania" by Leonardo Sinisgalli

Here's a glimpse into W. S. Di Piero's translation of Sinisgalli's Night of Shooting Stars. See "Lucania" below.


To the pilgrim crossing its frontiers,
coming down through the Alburni pass
or following the sheep path on the slopes of the Serra,
to the kite snapping the horizon line
with a snake in its claws, to the emigrant, to the soldier,
whoever comes back from refuge or exile or sleeps
in sheep pens, to the shepherd, sharecropper, salesman,
Lucania opens its parched plains,
its valleys where rivers crawl
like rivers of dust.

The spirit of silence spreads everywhere
in my grieving province. From Elea to Metaponto,
sophistical and golden, baffling and shy,
it drinks holy oil in churches, goes hooded
in houses, dresses like a monk in caves, grows
with grass on the outskirts of old crumbling villages.

The sun slanting on laurel, the good
bighorned sun, tongue of sweet light,
sun greedy for children, here in the piazzas!
It slogs along like an ox, on the grass
and stones it leaves enormous stains
swarming with ghosts.

Land of huge mamas, of fathers dark
and radiant as skeletons, overrun by roosters
and dogs, woods and limestone, lean
land where the grain toils miserably
(wheat, corn, semolina)
and the wine is dark and chewy
(mint from Agri, basil from the Basento!)
and olives taste of oblivion,
flavor of sorrow.

In tinderbox volcanic air
the trees weirdly pulse and breathe,
Oaks fatten with heaven’s essence.
Rubble lies untouched for centuries:
nobody dares overturn a stone, fearing the horror.
I know hell’s navel lies under every stone.
It takes a boy to lean over the edge
of the abyss and scoop nectar
from shoot-clusters swarming with mosquitoes
and tarantulas.

I’ll come back, alive under your red rain,
I’ll come back, guiltless, to beat the drum,
to tie my mule to the gate,
to catch snails in the garden.
Will I see the smoking stubble, the brushwood,
the ditches? Will I hear the blackbird singing
under the beds, and the cat
singing on the tombs?

--Leonardo Sinisgalli

Translated by W. S. Di Piero