Women Behind Genoa and Elsewhere

Translated by Nicholas Benson

While they walked
the dusty Sunday road
echoes with their laughter—

women young and old
took another road, closing
kerchiefs in fists, later in summer,
on another Apennine, covered with chestnuts—

here’s a clearing where they paused quietly
it’s almost midday
in the mountains behind Genoa
as they emerge and laugh, away from home,
climbing and sweetly
following the road the men take
to work to pleasure but now
they pause in a clearing,
the walk done equal the walk to come,
and even a child a woman,
her fate sealed: work pleasure
work and these days
of happy pilgrimage
excluding the men—

an exception can be made only if a boy falls ill
or loses interest in snacks
that break up the day,
so is in need of San Fermo and it’s already
the ninth of August on the road to Zibana
where the intoxicating morning chill
joins the burning sky, zinc
like the pails, to each saint a feast,
and one woman will commission a defective pail,
allowing the blacksmith a joke about her years
flowering under the ironed black satin
the flanks of tender silk
among the blue zinc pails
and the child Sante, already blessed,
enters a sunlit region where other toughs
clash in radiant sunlight around a cloth
ball; later the sun will have run
its course, so no one hurries to leave
Zibana posted below,
to set forth with the little group of women and boy
for the pinnacle where sun and sweat
lingers on the weary, gentle faces—

All this later
in summer, in the day, and years ago,
not behind Genoa one holiday morning
in a clearing with voices of women resting,
to whom I listen, concealed
by a corner of ruined wall
overgrown with weeds.

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