Friday, January 20, 2012

Black Angel Suite

First a translation of Eugenio Montale’s “L’angelo nero” (Go here for the original Italian plus an alternative translation by the great William Arrowsmith), then an original poem on the same subject…

Angel of black
restore me in soot
under your wings,
I can scrape past the combs
of thorns, the illuminations of the ovens
and kneel down
on the extinguished embers
if ever there remains some fringe
of your feathers

small angel so dark,
not heavenly or human
angel who is visible
changing different colors
and different forms, the same
then not the same, in the rapid flashing
tale-spinning your incomprehensible

black angel unveil
but do not kill me with your radiance,
do not clear the halo of fog
imprinted in my mind
because there is no eye that can withstand the headlights,
angel of coal that will shelter
inside the chestnut seller’s shawl

great ebony angel
dark angel
or white, if I, tired of wandering
took your wing and felt it
I could not recognize you as I do
in sleep, waking in the morning
because it’s easier for a biped or a camel
to fit a needle's eye
than distinguish the false from the true,
and the burnt part that’s left, the lump
on your fingertips
is less than the dust
on your last feather, great angel
of furnace and ash, miniature angel
chimney sweep.

Angel of black
with invisible wings
fill up my lungs with your flickering
grime, angel hobbling
in vagabond clothes
chanting toothless hymns,
cover the pipe steam too bright as it ascends
mirror my prayers too black
to comprehend, so the thought of death
is overwhelming, the sense of loss almost real,
let the burn of injustice turn the sky to ash
before it reduces
to blue and confusion,
let me know my sins and see in you
their retribution
and mercy in your hideous cloak.

O angel walk past me in fur
skirting the unknown with vampiric gait
and disappear, when your eyes
have laid their eggs in me
to purple smoke, the blackened
acid sweet leaves
of what's no longer
in form
and there's no life at all in the gargoyles
just the thought of you
as if you exist.

Don't desert me, black angel,
I wish to forget
that the world is service and thought
is endless,
let me grovel with turbid fanatics
who all harbor secret doubts
and a thirst for vengeance.
The sulfurous burn
of the paper and names
as the borders get blurred,
how you endure the fire’s play, resolute
pit, cast-iron charm.

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