Montale’s Grave

By Jonathan Galassi b. 1949 Jonathan Galassi
Now that the ticket to eternity
has your name on it, we are here to pay   
the awkward tribute post-modernity
allows to those who think they think your way

but hear you only faintly, filtered through   
a gauze of echoes, sounding in a voice
that could be counterfeit; and yet the noise   
seems to expand our notion of the true.

An ivory forehead, landscape drunk on light,   
mother-of-pearl that flashes in the night:   
intimations of the miracle
when the null steps forward as the all—

these were signals, sparks that spattered from   
the anvil of illusions where you learned   
the music of a generation burned
by an old myth: the end that will not come.

There is no other myth. This sun-drenched yard   
proves it, freighted with the waiting dead,   
where votive plastic hyacinths relay
the promise of one more technicolor day

—the promise that is vouchsafed to you, scribe,   
and your dictator, while your names get blurred   
with all the others, like your hardest word   
dissolving in the language of the tribe.


Jonathan Galassi, “Montale’s Grave” from North Street and Other Poems (New York: HarperCollins, 2001). Copyright © 2001 by Jonathan Galassi. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: North Street and Other Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 20002001)

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Poet Jonathan Galassi b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

 Jonathan  Galassi

Biography

In addition to publishing two volumes of poetry, Morning Run (1998) and North Street (2000), Jonathan Galassi is an eminent translator of Italian poetry. He has spent over 25 years studying Eugenio Montale’s poetry and has published several collections of Montale’s work, including Eugenio Montale: The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays (1982) and Collected Poems 1920–1954 (1998). Reviewing Collected Poems for the New York . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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