My love, don't believe
By Bartolo Cattafi
Translated by Dana Gioia
My love, don’t believe that today
the planet travels on another orbit,
it is the same journey between old
there is always a sparrow flitting
in the flower beds
a thought grown stubborn in the mind.
Time turns on the face of the clock, it joins
a trace of fog above the pine trees
the world veers into the regions of cold.
Here are the crumbs on the earth,
the embers in the fireplace,
the low and busy hands.
Bartolo Cataffi (1922-1979) was born in the province of Messina, Sicily, but worked in Milan with brief vacations in his hometown. He began writing after a medical discharge from the army in WW II , and continued to write up to the time of his death of cancer at age 57. He published several award-winning collections during his lifetime
Cattafi's concerns are often philosophical: how to find significance in the fleeting moments of brief lives when surrounded by an infinity of time and an omnipotent universe. He tackles these issues with a dry humor, a semi-ironic belief that everything and everybody are special despite how routine, predictable, and common much of existence is. It can be the landscape of depression, those never-ending dilemmas without resolution. But usually he toughs it out by sheer physical effort, the optimism of fresh beginnings, a shaky belief in the improbable or impossible or that time-honored weapon against death: the erotic.
This poem describes the experience of a tension between the poles of temporal and eternal being, not an objective cognition either of the poles or of the tension itself. Whatever may be the status of man as the subject of the experience, he does experience in his soul a tension between two poles of being, of which one, called temporal, is within himself, while the other lies outside of himself, yet cannot be identified as an object in the temporal being of the world but is experienced as being beyond all temporal being of the world.