16 August 2015

Echo of brutal laughter at the edge of the sea

                                                 by James Wright

Bari, Old and Young

       The old women of Bari near the sea sit in the small shadows of open doors. Their faces are beautifully darkened in the sunlight. Their hair is grey enough. They have seen the wars. They have known the young Germans blundering and falling out of the sky like poisoned moths. The young men in Bari today swagger and smirk as though no one had ever lived before, as though no one had ever died. Forever titivating their lank hair in the Adriatic breezes, voluptuously caressing their own armpits, they love to be told they are the lost youth, unemployed and betrayed by The System. Their motorcycles whinny insanely along the dark streets, and they are interested in women only to frighten them. They are too mindless to be skillful thieves. But the old women of Bari in their open doors know that young men will find something wlse to do, and I walk in this city as frighted as an old sea woman startled by moths.
       Once the old city of Bari rose and gathered its companions out of the sea. But the new city, a growth of our present desperate century squats a little inland, companionless. It is no place for solitude. Already the stony faces of new tall buildings are beginning to crumble.
       On my last day here, I will walk carefully through the barren places and find the past again, the old city where I can stand solitary beside the noble churches. And beyond the old city, even beyond the past, there is the sea itself, the ancient freshness of the natural world that God, stirring in His loneliness and unapproached in His light, breathed upon. The fragrance of the water moves heavily and slowly with mussel shells and the sighs of drowned men. There is nothing so heavy with earth as the sea's breath and the breath if fresh wilderness, the camomilla fields along the shore. I would like to stand among them and breathe their air, one more day of my life, before I have to turn around and make my way back to this present century, back through the ugliness of vicious young faces,w ho will leave no churches behind them in the fullness of their age, but only the blind scars of motorcycle tires, the wrinkles of panic on women's faces, and an echo of brutal laughter at the edge of the sea.

The American Poetry Review, May/June 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, from one of my favorite poets.


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