Steven Grieco

Quietly, he tells me what came to pass.
In that place the motorway
crossed through a forest,
and he hadn't even noticed.

After dark, suddenly the shape
looming into sight,
eyes bright in the headlights:
how he slams on the brakes, the sickening thud,
head smashing against the windshield.
Only briefly he mentions the aftermath –
his bloodied forehead (luckily nothing
serious, just a biggish scratch),
the car turned over on its side, the police.
And the lifeless body on the tarmac,
the carcass
which two road workers drag away
in front of an endless line of waiting cars.

It's curious, he says, but now he only recalls
the instant glance before the impact –
whether his or the animal's, hard to say;
whose wondrous, deep light travels out
to evoke a vaster killing ground,
far beyond this one isolated culling;
and him catching somehow
in the superhuman mirror of that glance
(the motorway, the forest, the galloping shadows)
a rare and fleeting image
of his imperishable Self.

While he tells his story and I listen,
far-flung horizons open up in front of us,
and questions of overriding significance;
but soon we leave them for simpler conclusions,
to better shelter
from that overpowering vision.

And when it's time to get up and say goodbye,
both of us are left wondering whether all our knowledge
is just the skin
the snake has wriggled out of.


translated from the Italian by Steven Grieco