Salvatore Quasimodo

(1901-1968 / Italy)

To My Father - Poem by Salvatore Quasimodo

Where Messina lay
violet upon the waters, among the mangled wires
and rubble, you walk along the rails
and switches in your islanders'
cock-of-the-walk beret. For three days now,
the earthquake boils, it's hurricane December
and a poisoned sea. Our nights fall
into the freight cars; we, young livestock,
count our dusty dreams with the dead
crushed by iron, munching almonds
and apples dried in garlands. The science
of pain put truth and blades into our games
on the lowlands of yellow malaria
and tertian fever swollen with mud.
Your patience, sand and delicate,
robbed us of fear,
a lesson of days linked to the death
we had betrayed, to the scorn of the thieves
seized among the debris, and executed in the dark
by the firing squads of the landing parties, a tally
of low numbers adding up exact
concentric, a scale of future life.

Back and forth your sun cap moved
in the little space they always left you.
For me, too, everything was measured
and I have borne your name
a little beyond the hatred and the envy.
That red on your cap was a mitre;
a crown with eagle's wings.
and now in the eagle of your ninety years
I wanted to speak to you -- your parting
signals coloured by the night-time lantern --
to speak to you from this imperfect
wheel of a world,
within a flood of crowded walls,
far from the Arabian jasmine
where you are still, to tell you
what once I could not -- difficult
affinity of thoughts -- to tell you (not only
the marshland locust, the mstic tree can hear)
as the watchman of the fields tells his master:
'I kiss your hands.' This, nothing else.
Life is darkly strong.

Comments about To My Father by Salvatore Quasimodo

  • Fabrizio Frosini (6/14/2015 4:33:00 AM)

    original text:

    ''Al padre''

    Dove sull'acque viola
    era Messina, tra fili spezzati
    e macerie tu vai lungo binari
    e scambi col tuo berretto di gallo
    isolano. Il terremoto ribolle
    da due giorni, è dicembre d'uragani
    e mare avvelenato. Le nostre notti cadono
    nei carri merci e noi bestiame infantile
    contiamo sogni polverosi con i morti
    sfondati dai ferri, mordendo mandorle
    e mele dissecate a ghirlanda. La scienza
    del dolore mise verità e lame
    nei giochi dei bassopiani di malaria
    gialla e terzana gonfia di fango.

    La tua pazienza
    triste, delicata, ci rubò la paura,
    fu lezione di giorni uniti alla morte
    tradita, al vilipendio dei ladroni
    presi fra i rottami e giustiziati al buio
    dalla fucileria degli sbarchi, un conto
    di numeri bassi che tornava esatto
    concentrico, un bilancio di vita futura.

    Il tuo berretto di sole andava su e giù
    nel poco spazio che sempre ti hanno dato.
    Anche a me misurarono ogni cosa,
    e ho portato il tuo nome
    un po' più in là dell'odio e dell'invidia.
    Quel rosso del tuo capo era una mitria,
    una corona con le ali d'aquila.
    E ora nell'aquila dei tuoi novant'anni
    ho voluto parlare con te, coi tuoi segnali
    di partenza colorati dalla lanterna
    notturna, e qui da una ruota
    imperfetta del mondo,
    su una piena di muri serrati,
    lontano dai gelsomini d'Arabia
    dove ancora tu sei, per dirti
    ciò che non potevo un tempo - difficile affinità
    di pensieri - per dirti, e non ci ascoltano solo
    cicale del biviere, agavi lentischi,
    come il campiere dice al suo padrone:
    Baciamu li mani. Questo, non altro.
    Oscuramente forte è la vita.

    Salvatore Quasimodo
    da PensieriParole
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  • Fabrizio Frosini (6/14/2015 4:09:00 AM)

    ''To My Father''

    Where Messina stands above

    violet waters, you walk the tracks

    amongst mangled rails and debris,

    in your station-master’s cap, like

    a Sicilian cockerel. The three day

    earthquake rumbles on, it’s December of hurricanes,

    and poisonous seas. Night descending

    on goods-wagons and our childish cattle,

    we count dusty dreams with the dead

    crushed by iron, munching almonds,

    and desiccated garlands of apple. The science

    of pain adds iron truth to the lowland hazards

    of yellow malaria and muddy bloated tertian fever.

    Your patience

    sad, delicate, robbed us of fear,

    was the lesson of days spent with traitorous

    death, with contempt for the thieves

    caught in the wreckage, tried in the dark

    in a fusillade of gunfire a tally

    of low numbers proving exact,

    concentric, a final balance of future life.

    Your hat, for the sun, bobbed up and down

    in the little space always granted you.

    Within me too, everything was weighed,

    and I have borne your name,

    a little further from hatred and envy.

    That red cap of yours was a mitre.

    a crown with aquiline wings.

    And now in your eagle-like ninetieth year,

    I wanted to speak to you, the signal-lamps

    of your departure tinged by the night light

    that casts the imperfect

    orbit of this earth

    on a stretch of narrow wall,

    far from the Arabian jasmine,

    where you are now, to say to you

    what I once could not – difficult affinity

    of thought – to say to you, so not merely

    the cicadas of Biviere, the agaves and mastics, hear,

    speak as the steward speaks to the master,

    ‘I kiss your hand.’ That, nothing more.

    Life is darkly strong.

    Note: Lake Biviere lies among the beech woods of the Nebrodi Regional Park in Sicily.
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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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