The Highway

Pierluigi Cappello

Just now it was spoken
                                          look, a hare
in the thickest patch of forest where it was,
only the hunch of a reflection,
that height of happiness at which it snaps
and bolts, far from us. Around these parts
it's not uncommon to see a lynx. I saw one
years ago, in the dead of night, near an ammunition depot.
I was out looking for Sirius, acquainting myself with the sky
and behind me was a lynx, eyes like an angry mother's,
as if a portal had opened and out came a storybook illustration,
the beast, right there, a foot or two away,
and I forgot all about the splendor of the fixed stars.
With no end in mind, we won't last here—
one of us swears the Great Bear is to the east,
and, like the firs, it seems to be drawing nearer
the scattered houses. Meanwhile, we can all see
how the highway sliced the valley's gut
and the throats of anyone left;
when it's snowing, no, the scar is less defined,
all grows distant, and maybe it all grows soft like grass in water
and the gaze is reborn inside the gaze
of the way things were true for the first time, inside innocence,
and the cerulean of September days
sinks in the throat, the kickball fallen from the clouds
it seemed, so high had the father punted it,
and the smell of hay gathered before the rain,
and of course the scattered houses, and nothing tampered with,
all of it, still untouched—
yet it sticks in the throat, beyond speech.
Your pain and yours alone
your way of looking
just past my hair
when you tell me a story; a boy was reading Camus
in a mulberry tree, in a fork between the trunk
and the largest branch, while we bore a tunnel through the mountain.
The river was under siege and a thin dust settled
on the roofs of the village, on the peaked caps of the guards
outside the barracks in Zucchi, on the "do not enter" sign.
An end was nearing. Afterward, once all was in order,
we stared at one another
and our faces seemed far off.
It's been peaceful lately, almost easy
in the low season, the children cross the water,
each stone one leap from the next;
with no end in mind, you won't last here—
if the mountain collapses, my face collapses a little each day,
if the river runs dry, my heart's just as ready to shrivel,
if the highway throws a shadow on the shadow of the valley
you'll find the trace of it here, just below the navel,
the way each circle is encircled on an aging trunk.
Tomorrow, yes, even here we'll be covered in leaves,
the tide may come to a halt on its own
but no one can make it stop
and inside these crude meters we live our lives
and to live is to carry what's been shed,
to one day at a time compose its name.

translated from the Italian by Todd Portnowitz