p
o
e
m
s

People are walking back and forth on the city streets

buying food, newspapers, attending to business

Their faces are flushed, their lips full and bright.

You lifted the sheet to look at his face

you bent to kiss him in the way you always did,

but it was the last time. He looked as he always looked,

just a little more tired. He was wearing his everyday clothes,

those were his everyday shoes. And those his hands

that had broken bread and poured wine.

Today again in the passing hours you lifted the sheet

to look at his face for the last time.

When you walk in the street, there’s no one beside you,

when you’re afraid, no one takes your hand.

And the streets aren’t yours, nor is the city

The glittering city is not yours. The glittering city belongs to the others

to the people who come and go and buy newspapers and food.

You stand at the quiet window for a while

and gaze silently into the dark garden.

Then when you cried, there was his quiet voice

and when you laughed, there was his soft laughter.

But the gate that would open every evening is closed forever;

your youth is forsaken, the fire is cold, the house empty.

 

Translated from the Italian by Estelle Gilson.

Natalia Ginzburg (1916–1991) was the author of fiction, essays, and theater works in Italian.

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