To My Wife


You are like a creamy pullet,
my white hen,
whose plumes the wind disturbs
when she stoops to drink
or peck at the ground,
yet proceeding over the grass with measured step
just like a queen:
full-bosomed and superb
and better than roosters;
she is like all the females
of the peaceful animals,
close to God.
And so if eye and judgment
do not fool me,
among these your equal will be found,
and in no other woman.
And when the evening makes them comfortable,
the peaceful cluck of their troubles
reminds me of you
complaining,
and unaware
that like the hens
your voice makes sad and gentle music.

You are like a pregnant heifer,
happy still and without dullness,
even frisky,
who if you pet her
turns her neck where the coat glows,
a tint of rose.
Or, coming on her and listening to her moans,
so sad is her lament,
you are driven to gathering grass
to make her a gift.
And so it is I offer you my gift when you are sad

You are like the sleek bitch
so sweet of stare
but tough at heart.
When she lies down
she seems a saint
burning with unconquerable religion,
looking at you as though
you were her Lord and Master.
But when she follows you
through the house, in the street,
should anyone dare approach,
bares her lily teeth.
Love. Love and jealousy.

You are like the scared rabbit
who in her narrow cage
raises herself erect at sight of you
and stretches her ears,
keeping them stiff,
as though begging you to bring her the leavings,
radishes,
and when denied
curls up in the corner by herself,
snuggling the dark.
Who would hold food from her?
who would rob her
of the fur she nips from her back
to line her nest with
where she shall give birth?
O who would ever make you suffer?

You are like a swallow
returning in Spring,
departing in Autumn–
(but you've not learnt this trick!)
And, like the swallow, you have your light ways,
as when, the time I was feeling my age
and becoming ancient,
you predicted another Spring.

You are the thrifty ant
of whom, when they go to the country,
Grandmother speaks to the baby
as they take their walk.
And so too I find you in the bees,
as in all the females
of the peaceful animals,
close to God;
and in no other woman.


                     Italian; trans. Felix Stefanile


Umberto Saba, Italian, trans. Felix Stefanile, The Sparrow Magazine, April, 1961.