For poetry by Renata Treitel
To order Treitel’s much-praised translations of Copioli’s The Blazing Lights of the Sun
Notes on the translations:
“The Melo River and the Moon”:
trivia= epiteth of Diana (Artemis)
Folia: sorceress mentioned by Horace
Agolanti: family name that goes back to the Middle Ages
Romagna: Region in Italy
Cambyses: 6th century BC, son of Cyrus, King of Persia. Cambyses was as savage and ugly of temper as Cyrus had been mild and generous.
garbino = south-west wind, humid and with sudden squalls
maestrale = north-west wind
“Garden Facing the Sea:”
furiano = south-west wind along the coast of Romagna in Italy
Email Renata Treitel
The Melo River and the Moon
The gray-eyed fauns, myriad
of wingless ones, vortexes of ankle-bones,
from what incrustations of joy
did they slip out, from what
shells—emptied out and lapped
like sargassum by a moon also worn-out,
a bleeding moon that occluded the bright sea
after the May high tide—from what shells
did they come? Remember?
The sea fauns that vanished from the ebb-and-flow
of the reed-waving estuaries, from the wooden
planks of the ports on stilts,
And the moon in the Melo River swallowed
by the nitrates, the slender
grasses, the sparkling waterfall
by the Roman bridge
to where lovers came down,
The moon is no longer
haughty, distant, serene, trivia,
but rather holed up
like a coin under scum.
The wanton white queen,
thin like a rake, who may have set
earth in front of the sun,
made her fall,
In the mirror of a wild animal
black like the sea at night, under
her flushed face,
a young woman gave herself
with ecstasy to the waves.
From the water and sand
at night to the paths
and to the closed gardens,
she clenched the pain and the pleasure
of what made her light,
Fate was decided there, dice on the sand,
the ankle-bones spun
swiftly, outside the twisted sea-lettuce
more vitreous than a beached
the Melo River flowed down to the sea
becoming a crystal port
for the red-sailed trawlers.
Folia, the sorceress, is back
after two thousand years.
Grim new people
drift into the farmhouses,
and envy, that makes Romagna ruthless,
greens up again.
There mills with it the madness of material envy
which snatches nests from the sky,
cuts down again all brotherly buds.
scatters weeds again.
See how it foams
the mania that makes the moon
roll down from the beheaded sky
on these estuaries of dead fauns.
Beautiful and white like one brief kiss,
like a short-lived lover,
He who binds himself to a gem destroys
life. But he who loves it,
even after it is gone,
lives for ever at dawn.
Now I can only dream of you,
as in the past —when clambering among Christ’s-thorn
and the hawthorn woolly with buds—
I knew you had existed
beyond the first hill by the sea, beyond the Arvűra,
in Torre Rossa. I could see you streaked
with the salt of the maestrale wind, the meadows
strewn with jonquils, the throat of the sirocco
hoarse among the violets.
Once in May a gloomy garbino swooped down.
It coasted the pink backs of the Apennines
scored with gullies and woods,
from where the early people of the Marecchia River
had stepped down to the coast.
Other eyes had given me a memory of you,
white with columns and stairs, doomed
to death, with your perfumed geraniums
in the fire of the hill.
If objects, places have wings,
a child opened yours again, stored them
kissed them as they were flying.
He never forgot the habits
of the harsh days. He kept passion and courtesy,
makes them return every day,
flames of what does not die,
the nocturnal salt of the heart
of the places.
Up at the White Mound, above the
fields where orange cantaloupes used to
grow, above the white shrine
of our Lady of the Snows, in front of
the ruins of the Agolanti’s, there was
an untrodden, unwavering pool
shaded by the hazy
dust-cloud of the tamarisk.
A green-veined malachite
sucked the sun with bluish lips
of flowers sprung up from mud and rust,
from a fine powder.
Up there at sunset, in bubbles like pavilions
under layers of cadmium,
flames flared up and burst,
a fountain of meteors.
And then from the spaces’ many balconies
a scarlet ribbon seemed to glide
under the waters again
like someone’s beloved face or arm
Climb up there now and see. It is as if
on drunken wanderings in the dark
I had shown you rather than described to you
that knoll on fire between noon and evening.
Look! Come with me, not even with my mind’s
eyes I could show you the knoll. Nothing
is left. Perhaps pool and tamarisk
lie under a string of rubble.
And over there, on the solferino platform of the cantaloupes
—blond like the shore of a golden inlet
jutting into the sea—two struggling
hordes advance. A chessboard of
discos and villas, slanting
wedges of structures
in fiberglass and sheet metal. Perhaps
the mind’s eyes need the dark.
In the shrubs around the castle, dark-ringed
frames of empty windows
pigeonhole the blue sea-front
stepping down to Gabicce.
My foot overturns a rock under which lingers
a haggard keeper. A pale frog
trembles in the hollow where the soul
of the pools and of the dead has withdrawn
like sun sucked up again, changed to
rust, powder, fine frozen dust.
Frog, keeper of wrecks,
rise one day, rise
with a puff from your tiny cold
bosom, make again the desert.
On the last journey, moving at dawn with the sun,
I shall stop at the nursery, with its water-well
flanked by wisteria and grapevines. On Julys
as a little girl, I could see there the swollen scaly
buds that the centaurea released
in straight tufts of feathers, the vitreous
globes of the red currant, almost crystal
balls mirroring faraway countries
at sunset. Fog
veiled them with its white starry air-borne motes
in bloom. And purple stars, tall
larkspur, roses everywhere by the slender
cypress trees. Summer hung over
the eternal earth, over the pears, the apples,
the plums in the baskets, over the grapes and their long
bunches, over the orange-perfumed muscatel with its
tiny berries. The afternoon still retained
the early morning dew
in its heart. Behind the iron-mesh gate
I could see lawns
of tiny red strawberries, forest-scented.
In the evening, inside the storehouse,
there hung the black-ribboned
white Panama hat
of my grandfather Giovanni.
Garden Facing the Sea
Blurred guardians of my heart, the stone lions
were not merely ornaments
in the garden that the sea
opened wide at the gate.
Enclosed by a black hedge,
the square garden guarded tamarisk and zinnias,
four-o’clocks, roses, goldenrod, phlox.
Scarabs scurried outside on the dunes.
The warm radiance of the sands was
pierced by bushes and by waxen, blue eyes.
The dry sea of mica and silicone
bounced against the tides,
against the reflections of the moons.
The furiano blew sand across,
covered the palmate leaves of the poplar with salt,
the storm knocked on the gate.
One night, seen from the terrace,
embattled, invoked, loved,
the sea climbed to the roses in silence.
A garden snatched from the waves cannot last.
Solitude and struggle can destroy it in no time.
When the stone guardians died,
there was a shudder,
foam and snow up to the peaks
of the Apennines.
I dreamed I had a pergola
which later became a meadow of weeds,
of twigs of stones. And a few steps in front,
the sea—which had spread
light and sun and infinite cries—turned
gray little by little in the white
northern light, and died out. But from
the broken limbs of the garden to the villa with its
vine-covered pergola and dark
bunches over the marble doors,
from the broken limbs, the sun
outlined my hands on the marble
and let them fall
as itself was falling.
The door jambs, the vine shoots, the small white
chairs shattered in the sun.
And from the villa not
far from the sea, dust rose
with the sun, dust and white seeds,
On Scratch Paper
On scratch paper
I repeat words full of delight.
For myself I ask for an enclosure of wild
plants, the tartness of green
plums, the hard knot of the
wild strawberry in bloom.
With squill and juniper
I’ll measure the barks, the woody
tissues, the stone, the bones, a
bony reflection, the vitreous glitter
of nature in its desert.