Selected Poems of Vittorio Sereni

THE DISEASE OF THE ELM

If it matters to you it's still summer
look here how on the river bank the tree
flakes its more tenuous leaves:
rosy-yellow petals of unknown flowers
- and to future memory
the evergreens motionless.

But it matters more the people step gaily,
the city rush to the river and a seagull,
ventured as far as here, be unleafed
in a flare of brilliant white.

Lead me, variable star, as long as you're able...

- and the day casts the banks in honey and gold
and recasts them in an oily dark
until the teeming of lights.
                                     It darts
out from that swarm,
the humming atom, hits me
with unswerving aim
where it most stings and burns.

Come near to me, speak to me, tenderness,
- I say turning back towards
a life until yesterday close to me
today so remote - drive out
from me the insistent thorn,
the memory:
it is never satisfied.

It's finished - that shadow
murmurs a reply
in the last light - sleep now, rest.

                                               You've
removed the thorn, but not
its burning - I sigh as I give myself up to her
in dreams with her already falling.

Included in Selected Poems of Vittorio Sereni (London: Anvil Press, 1990).