An Interview

Translated by Peter Filkins
Yes, I've been in Rome, at least two times,
though on second thought it probably was
three or maybe five. When was the last?
That's easy, for I remember it exactly—
at least what it was like when I first left.
You mean a part of you remains in Rome?

Not really, for when I was first in Rome
I was truly there. That ended the second time,
though I only realized it when I first left.
So when you were in Rome your last time was
consumed by thoughts of leaving? Not exactly.
As time went on, I came around at last,

thinking: obsess about leaving and nothing lasts;
I'll end up never having been in Rome.
Yet back then did you know just what exactly
it meant to be in Rome during that time
you thought about leaving, even if it was
then you saw what you'd lose if you had left?

Even at the time when I first left
I'd no idea. But you're not saying the last
you saw of Rome was your third visit, for wasn't
it earlier that you felt you'd never leave Rome?
No, all that happened there my second time,
though to this day I feel about Rome exactly

what I felt from the first. What that means exactly
is hard to say, for perhaps I never left,
since after all, my being there the first time
didn't involve my leaving. Tell me then, at last,
was it once or twice? were you really in Rome?
Why certainly—I'm sure, I know I was,

and on top of that you might even say I was
there time and again, everything there exactly
just the same, or like my last time in Rome,
me feeling as if I'd never really left.
But tell me now precisely, was the last
you saw of Rome indeed that second time?

To be exact, it happened the very first time
that I saw Rome, darkness falling as I left
causing me to see what simply couldn't last.

More Poems by Oskar Pastior