Sad Wine (II)

By Cesare Pavese 1908–1950 Cesare Pavese

Translated By Geoffrey Brock

The hard thing’s to sit without being noticed.
Everything else will come easy. Three sips
and the impulse returns to sit thinking alone.
Against the buzzing backdrop of noise
everything fades, and it’s suddenly a miracle
to be born and to stare at the glass. And work
(a man who’s alone can’t not think of work)
becomes again the old fate that suffering’s good
for focusing thought. And soon the eyes fix
on nothing particular, grieved, as if blind.

If this man gets up and goes home to sleep,
he’ll look like a blind man that’s lost. Anyone
could jump out of nowhere to brutally beat him.
A woman—beautiful, young—might appear,
and lie under a man in the street, and moan,
the way a woman once moaned under him.
But this man doesn’t see. He heads home to sleep
and life becomes nothing but the buzzing of silence.

Undressing this man you’d find a body that’s wasted
and, here and there, patches of fur. Who’d think,
to look at this man, that life once burned
in his lukewarm veins? No one would guess
that there was a woman, once, who gently touched
that body, who kissed that body, which shakes,
and wet it with tears, now that the man,
having come home to sleep, can’t sleep, only moan.

“Sad Wine (II)” 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, Growing Old, Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, Eating & Drinking, Nature, The Body

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, Growing Old, Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, Eating & Drinking, Nature, The Body


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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