Leonardo Sinisgalli, a XX century poet and painter, was born in Basilicata in 1908 and died in Rome in 1981. He had moved to Rome to study engineering and mathematics but after graduating in engineering he moved to Milan where he worked as an architect and graphic artist. He was a close friend of Giuseppe Ungaretti (a poet) and of Scipione (a painter), and was a member of the Expressionist art movement Scuola Romana. In his early poetry, Sinisgalli focused on themes from ancestral myths, but later adopted a more relaxed style. His language is plain and his voice gentle. The following poem is set in Rome.
Strepita la campana
Strepita la campana al capolinea.
La tramontana spazza contro il fiume
la polvere delle case in rovina.
Eccoti sola e la piazza ti sperde
al bivio, e tu non sai
più vivere, non sai dimenticare.
Era verde il sambuco quella sera,
freschi i tumuli di terra
fuori della città lungo il declivio
che da Santa Sabina
scende a Bocca della Verità.
Ahi, ahi, stravolta (oggi l’anno ci coglie
così distanti per strade traverse)
tu cammini, io ti chiamo. Alle finestre
scroscia a sghembo la pioggia.
E ti sollevi l’ammasso di capelli
dagli orecchi, scrolli
i perduti ricordi: una nube
di corvi dal mio cielo
s’è posata stasera nel tuo specchio.
Here is a translation by Rina Ferrarelli. I have made two changes where I thought it had been incorrectly translated.
The Bell’s Clanging
The bell’s clanging at the end of the line. / The north wind sweeps against the river / the dust of the houses in ruin. / Suddenly you are alone and the piazza / loses you at the crossroads. / You no longer know how to live / no longer know how to forget. / The elder was green that evening / fresh the mounds of earth / outside the city along the slope / that goes from Santa Sabina / to Bocca della Verità. / Distraught (the year finds us today / far apart on crossroads) / you walk away, I call to you. Rain / slants hard against the windowpanes. / You lift the heavy hair / from your ears, shake / the lost memories: a cloud / of ravens from my sky / has landed on your mirror tonight.