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Joseph Brodsky – Lullaby of Cape Cod

Jan Van Kessel, The day's catch - Harbour Scene with Fish, 1661

Preserve these words against a time of cold,
a day of fear: man survives like a fish,
stranded, beached, but intent
on adapting itself to some deep, cellular wish,
wriggling toward bushes, forming hinged leg-struts, then
to depart (leaving a track like the scrawl of a pen)
for the interior, the heart of the continent.
Full-breasted sphinxes there are, and lions winged
like fanged and mythic birds.
Angels in white, as well, and nymphs of the sea.
To one who shoulders the vast obscurity
of darkness and heavy heat (may one add, grief?)
they are more cherished than the concentric, ringed
zeros that ripple outward from dropped words.

Metti in serbo per le stagioni fredde
queste parole, per le stagioni dell’ansia!
Come il pesce sulla sabbia, l’uomo sopravvive:
se si strascina agli arbusti e s’alza
su gambe incerte e storte e va, come un rigo dalla penna,
nelle viscere stesse della terra.
Esistono leoni alati, sfingi col seno
di donna, angeli in bianco e ninfe del mare:
a colui che sostiene sulle sue spalle il peso
di buio, caldo e – oso dirlo – dolore,
sono più cari degli zeri concentrici nati
da parole gettate.