I'd intended to write something entirely different tonight, but when I came across this poem of Cesare Pavese, who was born September 9, 1908, I had to reproduce it here. You can read this and other poems of Pavese, translated by Linh Dinh, here, or follow other links via wood s lot, where I found this one.
Of course, it reminds me of the death of my father-in-law. Today we went to the Arab supermarket where we often shopped for things to take down to him in New Hampshire. I hadn't been thinking about him too much until I saw the bins of fresh dates, yellow and brown, still attached to their stems.
This is what stops: the body that sees, that tastes, complains, appreciates. The material world of associations goes on, but irrevocably altered from the natural impulses: pluck the fruit; cook the succulent meat; prepare the soup in the favorite bowl. Now our task is to go on plucking, cooking, preparing, but for ourselves, with absence seated across the table. Only in my own middle age have I understood that the dead had their own associations, mostly unspoken and unknown to me, their student, and that in my own life I am creating, unwittingly, associations that will stop someone else, someday, in the market or the street, stung for a moment by the grief and joy of having loved me.
End of Fantasy
by Cesare Pavese
This body won't start again. Touching his eye sockets
one feels a heap of earth is more alive,
that the earth, even at dawn, does not keep itself so quiet.
But a corpse is the remains of too many awakenings.
We only have this power: to start
each day of life—before the earth,
under a silent sky—waiting for an awakening.
One is amazed by so much drudgery at dawn;
through awakening within awakening a job is done.
But we live only to shudder
at the labor ahead and to awaken the earth one time.
It happens at times. Then it quiets down along with us.
If touching that face the hand would not shake—
if the live hand would feel alive touching it—
if it's true that that cold is only the cold
of the earth, frozen at dawn,
perhaps it'd be an awakening, and things that keep quiet
under the dawn, would speak up again. But my hand
trembles, and of all things resembles a hand
that doesn't move.
At other times waking up at dawn
was a dry pain, a tear of light,
even a deliverance. The stingy word
of the earth was cheerful, for a brief moment,
and to die was to go back there again. Now, the waiting body
is what remains of too many awakenings and doesn't return to the earth.
They don’t even say it, the hardened lips.
(This is the latest in a many-year-long series of posts about my father-in-law, collected under the title "The Fig and the Orchid"; please click on that name under Pages, in the sidebar at left, for the whole series.)