Martha Canfield

Translated from the Italian by Danielle Pieratti

Venice Asleep in Fog

Like the flat belly of water
vast horizontal
fog blurs with breath
as the notion of contour
seeps gradually
into the dream.

The posts that appear closer to shore
quiet the mind with the number three.

Ducks and gulls flock
to this familiar still lagoon
with its hidden cemetery center
and from that world a face appears
severe and stoic and cloaked in fog.

Recovering I gather
the echo of song even prayer
and guess beyond the mist
a slit of blue.

Through this sudden void
the sleeping city’s
ancient grace evaporates.


It was earth among seas
an imperfect circle
of mountain and plain
deep, close valleys
no beach or cliff or gulf
just hard arches
among the dark stones’
volcanic start.

There had been fire and burst under the sea
the preternatural bellow of bull
strung in the center of one rare
lightless star
the light in its watery womb
full and tight
moaning to birth an entire cusp
of blighted rocks
without rivers or springs
or beaches or sweet coasts
peaceless mountain
the tight valley
and those arches of stone
on that first sea.

Because even before the uprise
the thousand-year calm was
submerged, satisfied
in its airless sleep
in the bowed Angel’s
deep, careful quiet
his head hidden between wings
two pairs of them
two boundless whites
such a long wait
such persistent sadness.

Parts of Misfortune

They put the bomb in a wastebasket, on one side
 of the square. It exploded in the middle of the crowd.
 --Brescia, May 28, 1974

Few remember his face
since his voice stole its features
and secretly that day
as in these cases is usual
it was he who was chosen for the journey
now that image of him
with his right fist raised
must remain for the rest
a last phrase in our memories
that in the middle of the square
in the open road
in the uttered word
we still believed
not knowing the enemy
has many faces and attacks
from all flanks
from that dark corner especially
so clearly cast out
how the uselessness of our hands
the cause for good or justice
surprises us
so that we can’t know
a moment later
the stones still live between the flames
and the ally grimacing at my side
is so like Icarus
his grotesqueness pains me
in the mayhem a play begins without warning
and for which we’re dealt parts of misfortune
and that horror overtakes us
and its cry claims us
but someone gazed faroff is there
beyond the pillar of smoke
and the shred of tears
that take aim blindly
—-stray shot or rogue arrow
that the hunter’s eye won’t follow—-
toward a strip of cloudless blue
safely distant
who turning is bound today
for always unbounding
promise or ruin
hang on the viewer
sightless mirror dream undreamed
sudden aurora’s secretest voice
that opens roads and proffers keys
to our hell and two steps further

Martha Canfield was born in Uruguay to parents of Italian and Irish descent. She is the author of eleven books of Italian and Spanish-language poetry and three anthologies. Her most recent book, Luna di Giorno, was one of three finalists for the 2018 Premio Letterario Caput Gauri, and she has won multiple awards for her work in Latin America and Italy.

Danielle Pieratti‘s poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Boston Review, Sixth Finch, Rhino, Cream City Review, and elsewhere. Her first book, Fugitives (Lost Horse Press, 2016) was selected by Kim Addonizio for the Idaho Prize and won the Connecticut Book Award for Poetry in 2017.

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