The Friend’s Counsel


For you, the shadows are a dark tongued language,
and you find in them, all the tones
of that foreign land that echoes you.
I have always thrived in the dazzle
of this light that casts away the
dank and furtive promise.

I want the world to speak in the clear
voice of shapes,
I want an immaculate music of pillars
rising from the ruined flowerbeds.
But in this divested light, only
the outward dares speak.

You, who listen, who abide
the crimson banners of your dawn temple,
why do you understand
that which you cannot translate,
your cherished melancholy,
your contraband life?

I will have my order,
clean, sterile and magnificent.
But still, I envy your assiduous preparation
for euphoric desolation,
this prowess I have discovered
in your sensitivity.

The Gattamelata I (Padua)


See, this tensed energy
balanced on its awkward podium,
how in the soaring, contorted limbs,
that bulge like bronze fortresses,
you sense the horse’s revolt
against the stirrups,

while the head, sharp and unyielding,
fiercer than any enraged cloud,
would, at the slightest
loosening of the bite,
charge to the very edge of the high cliff,
to the ocean’s hoarse, unreasonable call.

But the taut man above,
with the self-assurance of
one who would conquer,
gathers up all this bellowing rage
into his equine brow.
For he is like a pole
about which a savage light grows tame,

and seated in his saddle,
he conjures purposes for those things
still without language.

See, in the joining of these two,
the horse is welded as a planet to its star,
and becomes an infinite road,
and an empire rising
beneath the hand’s firm hold.

The Gattamelata II (Padua)


In his arrogance, he saddles the horse
beneath the cruelty of his reason,
and deigns to ride.
He cannot let meadows be meadows,
and places smoothed stones on them,
walls and towers,

towns which he calls beautiful,
where he hoards precious things,
vases in the shape of girls and boys,
amulets that ward off death.

And he imagines a sky with eyes,
and in its terrible gaze
grows proud and secretive all at once,
and builds bronze equestrian statues
for the sentinel clouds.
But the sky is sky, and the bronze is bronze,

while the horse burdened by the man
walks in laboured circles
for the finery of the bored crowds.