Fire and darkness
(English translation of 'Il fuoco e il buio' by Eugenio Montale)
At times gunpowder
doesn't catch fire due to dampness,
other times it blows up without matches or a flint.
A pocket lighter will do
if it has a drop of butane.
Then there's when no fire happens at all,
a good subzero chill really puts the brakes on
that tedious great-grandmother, Inspiration.
She was none too sprightly a few days ago
but she’d done well in patching over her wrinkles.
Now she seems to be hiding in the folds
of the curtain, ashamed of herself.
She has lied too many times, now darkness
emptiness, nothingness can fall onto the page.
This you can trust my friend, the scribe.
You can believe in the dark when the light deceives.
For more translations of poems by Eugenio Montale, go to Translations.