By Cesare Pavese 1908–1950 Cesare Pavese

Translated By Geoffrey Brock

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.

The crickets were singing all night, and the stars
were blown out by the wind. In dawn’s glow,
even the eyes of the cats in love were extinguished,
the cats the boy watched. The female is crying,
no toms are around and nothing can soothe her:
not the tops of the trees, not the red clouds.
She cries to the wide sky, as if it were still night.

The boy was spying on cats making love.
The stray dog sniffs the boy’s body and growls;
he got here at dawn, fleeing the glow
that crept down the far hill. Swimming the river
that drenched him as dew drenches fields,
he was finally caught by the light. The bitches
were still howling.
                           The river runs smoothly,
skimmed by birds that drop from red clouds,
elated to find their river deserted.

“Affairs” from Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-1950 by Cesare Pavese. Published in 2002 by Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Dissaffections: Complete Poems 1930-1950 (Copper Canyon Press, 2002)

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Poet Cesare Pavese 1908–1950


Subjects Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Pets

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Cesare Pavese is widely regarded as one of the foremost men of letters in twentieth-century Italian cultural history, and in particular as an emblematic figure: an earnest writer maimed by fascism and struggling with the modern existentialist dilemma of alienated meaning. Little known in the United States, Pavese was profoundly influenced by American literature, and, when official censorship closed his mouth, he would use his . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships, Pets


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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