Bartolo Cattafi (1922-1979) is one of the main poets of post World-War II and, like his contemporaries, was deeply affected by the fascist period and the angst of war. Though graduating in law, Cattafi worked in advertising, publishing and journalism. Restless, he travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, seeking and gaining inspiration from these journeys. Themes of emptiness and solitude characterise his poetry. Several of his collections were published between 1951 and 1977.

Da qui non puoi

Da qui non puoi vederlo

devi ancora salire

o scendere gradini:

rotola perduto,

spinto da qualche vento sulla sabbia

sull’acqua trascorsa

della tua clessidra.

Intanto ami, abbracci, ignori

perchè di là dal morbido, dal tenero, dal caldo

avverti un’ambigua rigidezza.

Non sai ch’è morto e ignori

l’anima aguzza, d’acciaio,

che ti scruta e attende

il come il quando il dove.

Here is a translation found in The Penguin Book of Italian Verse

From here you cannot

From here you cannot see him, you must go up or down other steps: he rolls abandoned, driven by some wind over the sand, over the water that has passed in your hour-glass. Meanwhile you love, embrace, ignore, because beyond the soft, the yielding, the warm, you notice an equivocal rigidity. You do not know he is dead and are unaware of the sharp soul, of steel, that peers at you and awaits the how the when the where.

Yvette Devlin