translated by Peter Robinson

A turkey-oak two hundred years old now
no one has pollarded. Beneath it
there live vipers – woody elbows ache
against the back. And one night
upon the roots, you rebelled, and with such violence
as to remain offended, inside,
at male amour-propre. When the trunk's
sawn through (though it seems impossible
it'll befall quite thus)
and we can precisely count its years
in the pith's circles, no one will ever more murmur
of my attempt to love you.
                                                            This solitary turkey-oak
bursts into leaf, belligerent and tough,
and its germinal cells have adapted a sex
coming ravished by wind from the hills – 
it's surely a great creator of oxygen
and acorns, and even, I'd swear,
aware of our presence. Most discreet witness
thank goodness, but with a long memory: interior time
for this woody shape is of the slowest – 
when in springtime there sprout the new
indented leaves
only then do the last ones succumb, in strong wind,
crackling, from the year before.


Translation from the Italian
By Peter Robinson

Editorial note: For more about translator Peter Robinson, see page 39 of the print or digital edition of World Literature Today.

Pier Luigi Bacchini (b. 1927) is from Parma (Emilia), where he lived until 1993, retiring to the countryside near Medesano not far from the city. His poetry collections include Dal silenzio d'un nulla (1954), Canti familiari (1968), Distanze, fioriture (1981), Visi e foglie (1993), Scritture vegetali (1999), Contemplazioni meccaniche e pneumatiche (2005), and Canti territoriali (2009). "Chiacchiere," the poem translated here, is from Scritture vegetali.

Peter Robinson (b. 1953) is Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Reading (UK). Among his many volumes of poetry, translation and literary criticism are Selected Poems (2003), The Look of Goodbye: Poems 2001–2006 (2008), Selected Poetry and Prose of Vittorio Sereni (2006), The Greener Meadow: Selected Poems of Luciano Erba (2007), winner of the John Florio Prize, Poetry & Translation: The Art of the Impossible (2010), and Antonia Pozzi, Poems (2011).