Mistranslation: Cesare Pavese — Two Cigarettes.

Each night is Liberation Day.
Out come the flags, rippling
through the seaside dark docks.
Out comes the light reflecting
its way out of the corners of the asphalt
where each passing face has a story as plain as a Maori tattoo,
scrolling its way up and down, as if each passing face
found itself caught in the headlights of a slide projector,
and what if that was all that a deer was looking for and expecting, anyway?
The deer stops in the middle of the road because he or she thinks
they’re about to see photos of your vacation to Laos or Easter Island,
and shouldn’t you feel terrible?
But I cracked the wrong egg of the wrong Italian phrase here.
I had begun with “Ogni notte è la liberazione,” and my omelet
grew its own wings and its own feet and snatched all my clocks away
like that flying toaster screensaver from the pivot between ’89 and ’90,
and what was its name? “After Dark?”

But we should already be at “Se la sciarpa veniva da Rio, è passata di notte
sull’oceano inondato di luce dal gran transatlantico.”
We should already see Titanic-sized ships crossing the seas, and see
those ships as nothing but wind-blown scarves unfurling themselves
on street corners, in-between tall buildings when the layout accelerates
even the simplest puff or hiccough of a breeze into a brief burst of foot on the gas,
but patience is a Thomas Wyatt, or however that goes,
and we must return to the flame sputtering itself out like a collapsing runner
splitting the finish line banner when a woman asks for a match for her cigarette,
and the match sputters, and a second match, and the woman softly laughs.

The sleeping windows are guarded … by whom, exactly?
The scarf she wears? The cigarettes we smoke?
The grande gouffre between the culture of chasing the peg and this moment here?
How green we go. How the sheets smile.
Je suis le plus dingue, j’ai un tête des étoiles,
but I have a shoulder even Mt. Rushmore can rest on,
which is certainly the kind of incomplete clause and/or sentiment
that will earn its fair share of mockery in twenty minutes or twenty years,
even though all I’m really trying to say is: I am for you. I’m here. I’m yours.
And by way of reply, she points up and says, “That window is ours.”
So we cross the street, arm in arm, playfully warming each other.

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