On the flight home I have the window seat.
Across the aisle, father and son.
A young father, perhaps thirty years old, dark-haired, handsome,
the son six or seven years of age,
the same hair, fuller cheeks;
they play, Daddy tickles him, kisses
his cheeks, neck, shoulders and arms,
the boy laughs, laughingly
kissing him back: »Contrattacco, babbo!«
The father caresses his tummy – such tenderness
only a father and a son can share,
a tenderness even women know nothing of.
They are beautiful,
as statues in the Capitol museums
dug out from the garden of a Roman villa,
so resplendent,you want to touch them,
gods, nymphs, animals,
perfect in their own world.
NON TOCCARE! warns the museum guard,
the human touch sullies and destroys
what must last.
Is it possible to feel such tenderness for statues?
The hand of a father
not in Jupiter's temple
or above the clouds,
the time here has come to a standstill
(myself, and the book that says poetry
never stood a chance of standing
Cracks in the stone,
visible only to the attentive eye.
Something within me that cannot be at peace
with the past, a gracefulness that wounds, as does
the air that surrounds it, preventing any touch,
a museum of wrecks and remains,
a relief of a father kissing a son.
Translated by the author and E. Underhill