Words from Confinement

By Cesare Pavese 1908–1950 Cesare Pavese

Translated By Geoffrey Brock

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 lovlier 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,
their laughs, the way they walked down the street.
And each of us laughed. And it rained on the sea.

In vineyards that cling to cracks in the earth,
water softens the leaves and the grape-stems. The sky
is colored by occasional clouds that redden
with pleasure and sun. On earth, flavors and smells;
in the sky, color. And we were alone there.

We thought of return the way a man thinks
of morning after an utterly sleepless night.
We took pleasure in the color of fish and the glisten
of fruit, all so alive in the musk of the sea.
We were drunk on the thought of impending return.

“Words from Confinement” 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

POET’S REGION Italy

Subjects Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

POET’S REGION Italy

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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