Saturday, 4 December 2010


Winter Magic

In such a night as this,

Of north wind and rain mixed with snow,
There is someone who drowses in front of a TV,
Someone who resolves to rob a bank.

In such a night as this,

Distant as it takes light to travel in five days,
There is a comet that plummets onto us
From the black womb without height or depth.
The same one Giotto painted,
It will bring neither luck nor disasters,
But ancient ice and a reply, perhaps.

In such a night as this,

There is a half mad old man,
Fine metalworker in his day,
And now he sleeps at Porta Nuova, drinks,

In such a night as this,

Someone stretches out next to a woman
And feels he no longer has weight.
It's today that counts and not tomorrow,
And the flow of time pauses briefly.

In such a night as this,
Witches used to choose hemlock and hellebore
To pick by the light of the moon
And cook in their kitchens.

In such a night as this,
There is a transvestite on Corso Matteotti
Who would give a kidney and a lung
To grow hollow and become a woman.

In such a night as this,
There are seven young men in white lab coats,
Four of them smoking pipes.
They are designing a very long channel
In which to unite a bundle of protons
Almost as swift as light.
If they succeed, the world will blow up.

In such a night as this,

A poet strains his bow, searching for a word
That can contain the typhoon's force,
The secrets of blood and seed.

Primo Levi

Translated from the Italian by
Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann