Four Poems by Ida Vitale

Merry-Go-Round

The carousel, the roundabout, the what-
do-you-call-it, the merry-go-round, they called
to me, like a candle flame, a chariot, a stag,
a swan and a horse, a rearing horse
circling round and round but prodigiously still,
so still he trotted up into the air
with organ pipes and little bells, the air
not moving the horse’s tail
all golden and white, but dangerous,
the danger of falling in the midst of flight,
of me falling and being forgotten
by Father, of getting off elsewhere
than where I got on, all at once alone,
no more clouds in my hair, no more wind,
I am lost, no more that delectable fear
of flying with both hands clutching
the horse’s mane now slipping my grasp, and I
am clay in a kiln of air that slowly recovers
a stillness of form, the form of beginnings,
of being alone without wings.

 

Undermining the Wall

Time’s mission: to measure itself against the wall,
undermine it, unknot its solid ties,
temper its blade. Mind your impatience:
a sigh returns as a storm.
 
A sunset peers out from behind
Batoví Hill, bleedingly splendid.
In your heart there should be ashes:
there still is blood.
 
Life: it comes with wings or briers,
a bouquet for the vase and smiles
or stony silence. Then, the wall.

 

Chapter

WHERE AT LAST IT IS REVEALED
WHO I WAS, WHO I AM,
MY FINAL RESTING PLACE,
WHO YOU ARE, WHO YOU WERE,
YOUR NEXT DESTINATION,
THE COURSE THAT WE TAKE,
THE WIND THAT WE BEAR,
AND WHERE IT IS DECLARED
THE PLACE OF THE TREASURE,
THE IRIDESCENT FORMULA
THAT CLEARLY
EXPLAINS TO US THE WORLD.
 
But then the chapter
was never written.

 

The Word

Expectant words,
fabulous as such,
promises of possible meanings,
artful,
              aerial,
                              irate,
                                           Ariadnas.

A slight error
makes them ornamental.
Their describable exactitude
erases us.