Sunday, October 5, 2014

An Unquiet Sweetness

Every time I walk into the backyard with a load of laundry, the kumquat tree must feel a displacement of air. The blossoms assail me, the scent is heady. I could drop the laundry basket and stand there with my eyes closed, the heat of the sun on my skin, my toes curled into the brittle dead grass and the pink flowers of the silk floss tree that lie scattered everywhere.

It's about lemons, not kumquats, but here's one of my favorite poems:

The Lemon Trees

Listen, the poets laureate
walk only among plants of unfamiliar name: boxwood, acanthus;
I, for my part, prefer the streets that fade
to grassy ditches where a boy
hunting the half-dried puddles
sometimes scoops up a meager eel;
the little paths that wind along the slopes,
plunge down among the cane-tufts,
and break into the orchards, among trunks
     of the lemon-trees.
Better if the jubilee of birds
is quenched, swallowed entirely in the blue:
more clear to the listener murmur of friendly
in air that scarcely moves,
that fills the senses with this odor
inseparable from earth,
and rains an unquiet sweetness in the breast.
Here by a miracle is hushed
the war of the diverted passions,
here even to us poor falls our share of riches,
and it is the scent of the lemon-trees.

See, in these silences
in which things yield and seem
about to betray their ultimate secret,
sometimes one half expects
to discover a mistake of Nature,
the dead point of the world, the link which
     will not hold,
the thread to disentangle which might set us 
     at last
in the midst of a truth.
The eyes cast round,
the mind seeks harmonizes disunites
in the perfume that expands
when day most languishes.
Silences in which one sees 
in each departing human shadow
some dislodged Divinity.
But the illusion wanes and time returns us
to our clamorous cities where the blue
only in patches, high up, among the gables.
Then rain falls wearying the earth,
the winter tedium weighs on the roofs,
the light grows miserly, bitter the soul.
When one day through a half-shut gate,
among the leafage of a court
the yellows of the lemon blaze
and the heart's ice melts
and songs 
pour into the breast
from golden trumpets of solarity.

Eugenio Montale, Selected Poems



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