Cesare Pavese



                  Grappa in September


The mornings run their course, clear and deserted
along the river's banks, which at dawn turn foggy,
darkening their green, while they wait for the sun.
In the last house, still damp, at the field's edge,
they sell tobacco, which is blackish in color
and tastes of sugar: it gives off a bluish haze.
They also have grappa there, the color of water.

There comes a moment when everything is still
and ripens. The trees in the distance are quiet
and their darkness deepens, concealing fruit so ripe
it would drop at a touch. The occasional clouds
are swollen and ripe. Far away, in city streets,
every house is mellowing in the mild air.

This early, you see only women. The women don't smoke,
or drink. All they know is standing in the sun,
letting it warm their bodies, as though they were fruit.
The air, raw with fog, has to be swallowed in sips,
like grappa. Everything here distills its own fragrance.
Even the water in the river has absorbed the banks,
steeping them to their depths in the soft air. The streets
are like the women. They ripen by standing still.

This is the time when every man should stand
still in the street and see how everything ripens.
There is even a breeze, which does not move the clouds
but somehow succeeds in maneuvering the bluish haze
without scattering it. The smell drifting by is a new smell.
The tobacco is tinged with grappa. So it seems
the women are not alone in enjoying the morning.


                        Italian; trans. William Arrowsmith


Cesare Pavese, Italian, trans. William Arrowsmith, Hard Labor,
Ecco Press, 1976.