Cesare Pavese

C
Cesare Pavese
Affairs
Dawn on the black hill, and up on the roof
cats drowsing. Last night, there was a boy
who fell off this roof, breaking his back.
The wind riffles the cool leaves of the trees.
The red clouds above are warm and move slowly.
A stray dog appears in the alley below, sniffing
the boy on the cobblestones, and a raw wail
rises up among chimneys: someone’s unhappy.
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“And then we cowards”
And then we cowards
who loved the whispering
evening, the houses,
the paths by the river,
the dirty red lights
of those places, the sweet
soundless sorrow—
we reached our hands out
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Atlantic Oil
The drunk mechanic is happy to be in the ditch.
From the tavern, five minutes through the dark field
and you’re home. But first, there’s the cool grass
to enjoy, and the mechanic will sleep here till dawn.
A few feet away, the red and black sign that rises
from the field: if you’re too close, you can’t read it,
it’s that big. At this hour, it’s still wet dew.
Later, the streets will cover it with dust, as it covers
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The Cats Will Know
Rain will fall again
on your smooth pavement,
a light rain like
a breath or a step.
The breeze and the dawn
will flourish again
when you return,
as if beneath your step.
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The Country Whore
The big front wall that blocks off the courtyard
often catches the newborn light of the sun
like the side of a barn. The body awakes
in the morning to a room, messy and empty,
that smells of the first, clumsy perfume.
Even that body, wrapped now in sheets,
is the same that it was when it thrilled in discovery.

Her body wakes alone to the extended call
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Deola Thinking
Deola passes her mornings sitting in a cafe,
and nobody looks at her. Everyone’s rushing to work,
under a sun still fresh with the dawn. Even Deola
isn’t looking for anyone: she smokes serenely, breathing
the morning. In years past, she slept at this hour
to recover her strength: the throw on her bed
was black with the boot-prints of soldiers and workers,
the backbreaking clients. But now, on her own,
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Passion for Solitude
I’m eating a little supper by the bright window.
The room’s already dark, the sky’s starting to turn.
Outside my door, the quiet roads lead,
after a short walk, to open fields.
I’m eating, watching the sky—who knows
how many women are eating now. My body is calm:
labor dulls all the senses, and dulls women too.

Outside, after supper, the stars will come out to touch
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Sad Wine (I)
It’s a fine fact that whenever I sit in a tavern corner
sipping a grappa, the pederast’s there, or the kids
with their screaming, or the unemployed guy,
or some beautiful girl outside—all breaking
the thread of my smoke. That’s how it is, kid,
I’m telling it straight, I work at Lucento.
But that voice, that sorrowful voice of the old man
(forty-ish, maybe?) who shook my hand
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Sad Wine (II)
The hard thing’s to sit without being noticed.
Everything else will come easy. Three sips
and the impulse returns to sit thinking alone.
Against the buzzing backdrop of noise
everything fades, and it’s suddenly a miracle
to be born and to stare at the glass. And work
(a man who’s alone can’t not think of work)
becomes again the old fate that suffering’s good
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Smokers of Paper
He’s brought me to hear his band. He sits in a corner
mouthing his clarinet. A hellish racket begins.
Outside, through flashes of lightning, wind gusts
and rain whips, knocking the lights out
every five minutes. In the dark, their faces
give it their all, contorted, as they play a dance tune
from memory. Full of energy, my poor friend
anchors them all from behind. His clarinet writhes,
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Words from Confinement
We would go down to the fish market early
to cleanse our vision: the fish were silver,
and scarlet, and green, and the color of sea.
The fish were lovelier than even the sea
with its silvery scales. We thought of return.

Lovely too the women with jars on their heads,
olive-brown clay, shaped softly like thighs:
we each thought of our women, their voices,
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