Thursday, December 30, 2010

Poem by Elsa Morante

Minna the Siamese
I’ve got a little animal, a cat: her name is Minna.
Whatever I put in a plate, she eats,
and whatever I put in a bowl, she drinks.
Crouching she comes to me, watches me, then sleeps,
so soundly I forget she’s there. But if, then,
grateful, I call her name, in sleep an ear
trembles: her name casts a shadow over her sleep.
To give joy and grace, she has a little guitar;
if I scratch her little head or neck, she sweetly plays.
If I think of the centuries and all that divides us,
I’m afraid. Afraid for me: she knows nothing of this.
But if I see her playing with a string, if I gaze
at her pale blue irises, happiness is mine again.
On holidays, when everyone is merry,
I feel sad for her, that she doesn’t discern between the days.
So that she too will celebrate, for lunch I give her a little fish;
the motive she can’t understand: but joyous, she eats.
Heaven, for love of her, gave her nails and teeth:
but she, so gentle, only uses them in play.
I am taken by sadness at the thought that, even if I were to take her life,
I’d have no trial, no fires of hell, no prison.
She gives me so many kisses that to be kind to her I flatter myself,
but I know that another mistress, or me, to her it makes no difference.
She follows me, so I believe I am everything to her,
but I know my death could not touch her...
Translated by Nick Benson from the Italian of Elsa Morante (1912-1985), Alibi. Longanesi, 1958; Garzanti, 1988.

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