Poem for August 17

August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment


Who remains in the city in August?
Only the poor and the insane,
Old ladies left behind,
Pensioners with Pomeranians,
Thieves, here and there an aristocrat, and cats.
Along the deserted streets
You hear a percussive beat of heels
And you see women with plastic bags
Standing in the line of shade along the walls.
Under the fountain with the turret
In the green algaed pool
There’s a middle-aged naiad
Ten and a half centimeters tall
With nothing on but a bra.

A few meters away,
Despite the well-known prohibition,
Panhandling pigeons
Set upon you
And steal the bread out of your hand.
You hear in the sky the whoosh,
In exhausted flight, of the noonday demon.


-Primo Levi, translated by Harry Thomas & Marco Sonzogni, from the anthology Counterfeits (Center for the Art of Translation, 2011; no. 17 in the Two Lines: World Writing in Translation series)


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