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Wind and Flags

Eugenio Montale, translated from the Italian by Jonathan Galassi

The gust that lifted the bitter scent
of the sea to the valley’s twists and turns
and struck you, ruffling your hair,
brief tangle on the pale sky;

the squall that glued your dress to you
and shaped you swiftly in its image,
how it’s come back, now you’re gone, to these rocks
the mountain shoulders over the abyss;

and how, now the drunken rage is spent,
the soft breath finds the garden again,
that lulled you, stretched in your hammock
among the trees, on your flights without wings.

Alas, time never orders its grains
the same way twice. And there’s hope in this:
for, if it happens, along with nature
our fable will go up in a flash.

Flow that doesn’t quicken—and now brings alive
a group of dwellings laid out to the eye
on the flank of a hill,
bedecked with banners and festoons.

The world exists…Amazement halts
the heart that surrenders to straying ghosts,
heralds of evening: and won’t believe
starved men are celebrating.

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