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Monday, June 29, 2009

The Balcony

It was child's play choking
to nothing the space that had opened
before me, to a tedious vacillation
your incendiary absolutes.

So today I belatedly pitch
my self-belief into that void
for whose sake the rigours of waiting
for you alive keep

their bloodthirsty edge. This life
telegraphing its sparks is the only
one you acknowledge. You lean

towards it out of a balcony window
that stays in the dark.

(after Montale)


Ho Ho Ho said...

Prince Charles is visiting a hospital in Glasgow. He enters a ward full of patients with no obvious sign of injury or illness and greets one. The patient replies:
“Fair fa your honest sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin race,
Aboon them a ye take yer place,
Painch, tripe or thairm,
As langs my airm.”
Charles is confused, so he just grins and moves on to the next patient. The patient responds:
“Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat an we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit.”
Even more confused, and his grin now rictus-like, the Prince moves on to the next patient, who immediately begins to chant:
“Wee sleekit, cowerin, timrous beasty,
O the panic in thy breasty,
Thou needna start awa sae hastie,
Wi bickering brattle.”
Now seriously troubled, Charles turns to the accompanying doctor and asks “Is this a psychiatric ward?”
“No,” replies the doctor, “this is the Burns unit.”

charles said...

This poem, deeply concentrated and almost throwaway, is wonderful. So real a thing that I'm not sure that the Italian, all bows to Montale, may not itself be a version. Off my shelves yesterday I drew down other versions by Kate Hughes (Agenda Editions) and Ben Belitt (in the Penguin Montale), and the above stands proud. (Even tho not sure sure of 'for whose sake', and maybe 'telegraphing'). Last line wins, hands down.

charles said...

Damn: purpose of leaving above comment was to ask where did you find that M & hoopoe photo?

puthwuth said...

Many thanks for that, Charles. The image of Montale and the hoopoe is on the front of my Italian language Tutte le Poesie. More mundanely, it turned up fairly promptly on a google image search, possibly for "Montale and hoopoe".

I have long admired the enormous Jonathan Galassi bilingual Montale, but since its a bit heavy for reading in bed I continue to grit my teeth and use Jeremy Reeds old Bloodaxe bilingual text too, despite the multiple layers of outraged marginalia in which Ive covered it.