These poems by Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), Richard Jackson notes, did not appear in William Arrowsmith's translation of Hard Labor; some had been cut by Pavese because of the censor, some were written after his main book of poems, some the poet cut for unknown reasons.
Richard Jackson's poems appear in the previous issue of Slope, among many other journals.
We have the right to treat them that way.
It's certainly better than having some compassionate
heart for them and then just enjoying them in bed.
"It's the strongest need we have in our entire life,"
or rather "and we are all fated this way,
but if ever the girl makes a got of it with her skills
I'd choke her in a rage or learn some other revenge."
Compassion was always just a matter of lost time,
life is bigger than any of us and won?t be changed by this, -
better to clench your teeth and be silent.
I traveled on a train where there was this woman
dressed plainly, made up, serious in her face.
Outside the lights paled and the green became gray,
erasing the world. We were isolated
in that car - third class - woman and young man.
I didn't know what to say to her at that age
and I always wept when I thought of women. That's the way
I made my trip, looking around nervously, and she also
looked at me sometimes, smoking. I didn't speak,
didn't think anything, but still in my blood I can
feel her stern look, the laughter of an instant
of someone who has worked hard and took life
as it came, in silence.
A friend, someone
who says what he thinks, would like to save
a woman and wipe her tears, and give her some joy.
"No, it is the strongest need in our entire life
and if it is our fate that we have only this power
and a hardened soul, it doesn't do any good."
You have the power to save thousands of women
but those I have seen smoking and looking about
with pride written in their faces, - they will always live
to suffer in silence and pay for us all.
It has bloomed, this hate, like a living love,
aching, contemplating its own yearning.
It pleads for a face, for flesh, as if it were love.
They are dead, that worldly flesh and the voices
that played, a trembling has revealed this affair -
all that lived hangs in the air like a voice.
Under this bitter ecstasy the days dance by
to the sad caress of a voice that returns
taking the color from our faces. It's not without sweetness
does that voice return to a mind that's exhausted
and trembling: once it trembled for us.
But the flesh doesn't tremble. Only love
could bring fire to it, but this hate searches for it.
Everything that lives, and the worldly flesh
and its voices, are worth the bright caress
of that body and those eyes. In this bitter ecstasy
that is killing itself, this hate still finds
each day a glance, a broken word,
and seizes them, insatiable, as if it were love.
Out of Work
All the grand slogans pasted to the walls
that show, above the background of a factory,
the muscular workers who grab at the sky
are shredded from the sun and the dampness. Musino swears,
because it's his own face exhibited there on the roadside wall
while he walks in circles looking for work.
he gets up in the morning and stops to look at the papers
in the Tabacchi stand bright with the colorful faces of women:
he compares them to the ones who pass, wasting his time,
and each one has eyes more worn than the last. Suddenly a line
of sandwhich boards passes by advertising the cinema,
passes dilegently, - old men clothed in red,
and Masino, staring at the contorted faces
and colors, touches his own cheeks, feels them more gaunt than ever.
When it's time to eat, Masino returns to his circling
because it suggests he's been working. He crosses streets
and doesn't look anyone in the face anymore. In the evening he returns
and briefly lies down in the fields with some girl.
When he is alone he likes to stay in the fields
among the lonely houses and the supressed sounds
and sometimes he sleeps. The women are never absent,
just like when he was a mechanic: now he walks in circles
wanting a woman who'll be his alone, and faithful, too.
One time, when circling around, he was terrorized by a rival
and his friends found him battered in a ditch
and had to bandage up his hand. They're out of work now, too,
and three or four, hungry, started a band
with clarinet and guitar - they wanted Masino
to sing - and circle around the streets playing for money.
Masino answered that he sang for nothing
any time he wanted, but to go rousing servant girls
on the streets, one did that sort of thing in Naples. The days he eats
he takes a few friends with him half way up the hill:
there they close themselves in a bar and sing a few
songs alone, only the men. One time they went in a boat
but they saw the facdtories from it, and that made them mad.
One day, after shuffling around in front of the posters
till evening, masino ended up at the cinema
where he worked another time. he does well in the darkness
far from the glare of so many streetlights.
To grasp this story isn't so hard:
you can see a pretty girl and sometimes the men
suddenly fight. You can see countries
where it would be a punishment to live in, at least
with those stupid actors. Masino thinks
of a country of naked hills, of fields and factories,
his own mind extended like a prism over the plains.
This at least does not make him mad like the colored
posters on streetcorners, and the faces of women painted like murals.
Why the shame? When someone's done his time
and they let him out, and because he's like everyone
and not like everyone on the street, it shows he's been in prison.
From morning to evening we circle around the streets
and whether it's rainy or sunny doesn't matter.
It's a joy to meet people on the street that talk to us
and to speak with them alone, and grab some girl with a push.
It's a joy to whistle while waiting in a doorway for girls
and then walk arm in arm and take them to movies
to smoke on the sly, and press against their beautiful knees.
It's a joy to talk to them, to fondle them and laugh.
And at night, to feel yourself pulled onto the bed,
and feel two arms pull you down; and to think of the day
that you are out of prison and it's cool even in the sun.
From morning till evening to circle around drunk,
and to look laughing at the poeple who pass by
and enjoy everyone - even the dumb ones - feeling alive on the streets.
From morning till evening to circle around drunk
and to meet other drunks and start some small talk
which lasts a long time and so makes us thirsty.
All these people that go around talking to each other,
we want them with us at night, cramped into the back room, closed in,
and then following the strains of our guitar
which leaps drunkenly and can't even stay closed in anymore
but breaks through the doors, its sound resounding through the air -
outside it's raining either water or stars. It's not important if the streets
at this hour don't have any beautiful girls passing by:
we will find a drunk who's good enough for us and laughing all alone
because he also was let out of prison tonight,
and with him, shouting and singing, we?ll sing the morning.
She's come again, the woman with half closed eyes
and austere body, strolling along the street.
She looked straight ahead and held out her hand
in the stilled street. Everything returned.
In the stilled light of a distant day
memory fell apart. The woman raised
her plain brow, and that look from the past
returned. Hand to hand,
the same intense anxiousness as before.
It?s things that renew their colors and life
from that austere look, that half closed mouth.
But it returns, that anxiousness of distant days
when the whole stilled summer suddenly
emerged in color and warmth from the gaze
of those still eyes. It returns, that anxiousness
that the seductive sweetness of half closed lips
can't lessen. A stilled sky waits
coldly in those eyes.
Memory was quiet
in the still light of time and dying was easy
as the window fogged and disappeared.
Memory fell apart. The intense anxiousness
of her light touch has brought back the colors
and summer and warmth under a bright sky.
But that half closed mouth and the austere look
don?t give life, only a hard, inhuman silence.
End of the Fantasy
This body will never rise again. Looking around,
One feels that a mound of earth is more alive,
That the earth, waking at dawn, is not so silent.
But this corpse is quiet from too many awakenings.
We don't have this power: to begin
A life each day facing the earth,
Under a silent sky, as it waits to awaken.
Each of us is astonished that dawn is so very tiring,
awakening and awakening until the labor is completed.
But we live only to give a shudder
towards future labor, and to make the earth tremble one time.
And sometimes it happens to us. Then we return to our silence.
If touching the face of the future the hand curls up trembling -
This hand so alive it feels the silence of life -
If indeed the cold is no more than the cold
Of the earth, in the dawn that freezes the earth,
Perhaps this will be an awakening, and whatever is silent
At the bottom of the dawn, will speak its words. But the hand
Doesn't even tremble, nor does anything move that resembles
Another time, another dawn
Will bring a dry tear, a tear of light,
But it will also be a kind of freedom. The words
Of the earth will be happy, for a passing minute,
To die will be again a homecoming. Now, this body that waits,
A remnant of too many awakenings, will not return to the earth.
And says nothing either, with these hardening lips.
On the asphalt the moon makes a lake
so silent my friend remembers other times
It was enough one of those times to have a chance affair
and no longer be alone. Gazing at the moon
he breathed in the night. But even more, the scent
of a woman he met, a brief affair,
up the uncertain stairs. The quiet room
and a sudden desire to live forever -
this filled his heart. Then under the moonlight,
with slow steps, dazed, he returned, content.
In those days he was a great friend to himself.
He woke in the morning and leapt from bed
finding his body and his old thoughts.
It was a pleasure to walk outside in the rain
or the sunlight, a delight to gaze down the street
and talk to people he'd choose to meet. he believed
he could change his profession
at the end of the day, and begin each morning anew.
When he was very tired he'd sit down to smoke.
His biggest pleasure was to sit alone.
He's grown old, this friend, and would like a house
that he could hold dear, and he?d leave to go out at night
and stop in the road to gaze at the moon,
and find on returning a soft woman,
a quiet woman, and waiting patiently.
He's grown old, and no longer a friend to himself.
The passersby are always the same, the rain
and also the sun, the same; and morning, a desert.
Working makes no sense. To go outside to the moon,
if no one is watching, there?s no sense to that either.
People not Convinced
This rain that keeps falling on the piazzas and streets,
and on the barracks and the hills, it's all wasted.
Tomorrow morning the trees and brush will be washed
along the roadsides, and the courtyard of the barracks will be so soft
we'll muddle through up to our knees: the work they do in the city
is like all this water falling from the roofs.
(Outside it rains in the dark on all the streets,
but by tomorrow the grass will be growing.)
All things considered, the rain will keep coming down
along the ditches, on the hill, in the earth yellowed
with leaves and mud. But, above the scent
of the earth, a sterile musty scent of flowers
absorbing all the water, and among the flowers, villas
that drip with rain. Only from the other hillside
a scent of vines arrives on the wind.
(Outside, it rains in darkness on the piazza and the street
but it's not important: there's this wine that comes to heat us
with a warmth that we will still feel tomorrow.)
There's a smell of stone bathed in the wind,
and on the earth only wheel tracks. The woman who pass
know nothing. The women from the city
are always different and serve no purpose.
In the casino there's a pleasing odor
and the women are good. But they live as if in barracks
and the work they do is stupid.
(It's not important: the women will come to heat us up
with a warmth we'll still feel tomorrow.)
The man and the woman look at themselves lying on the bed:
The two bodies spread themselves out wide and exhausted.
The man is immovable, only the woman takes long, constant
Breaths that do not stop. Her legs are outstretched,
One bare and knotted into the man's. The whisper
From the sun on the road tells them to rise.
The air hangs impalpable in the exhausted shadows
And freezes the sweat as it rises on her
Lips. Their glances give hints they will approach
Each other, but they cannot find each other?s bodies
As when they first embraced. They gaze weakly.
The woman moves her lips a little, then silence.
The constant swell of her breath stops suddenly
At the long look from the man. The woman
Turns her face and approaches, lip to lip.
But the look from the man doesn?t change in the shadows.
Exhausted and immovable, each eye heavy in the other?s,
The warmth of her breath reviving the sweat,
They are desolate. The woman doesn't move her body,
Breathing and alive. The lips of the man approach.
But that immovable look doesn't change in the shadows.