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Petrarch - tr. Peter Hughes


From ‘Snowclone Detritus - Petrarch Sonnets 97 - 116


Io canterei d'amor sí novamente

do we ever question our procedures
or do we just keep keeping on like Slade
at Christmas gradually dismantling
the will to live through constant repetition

Gothic crockets on a baldacchino
point the way to further innovation
Pietro Cavallini blew away
my snood & preconceptions about art

ice creaks & the water level rises
through illiterate whispers of silver
they still pretend to stand outside the world

would any rearrangement of language
transform her life or mine as I disguise
my feelings & they mingle with the crowd



L'avara Babilonia à colmo il sacco

millionairs guffaw across the chamber
relishing another little triumph
of the people’s will to be directed
by mental epidemics of the right

in the Perpendicular Gothic style
reopened by the king in October
1950 when Walter de la Mare
is publishing his Inward Companion

& Charles Olson airing Projective Verse
& religions continue to distract
us from the just & the mysterious

see the ends of all the answers streaming
out into the future night & growing
distant from our mouths & from each other



Fontana di dolore, albergo d'ira

well we don’t like queers or women bishops
we don’t like intercourse or modern art
we know what we like & we don’t like you
more from our religious correspondent

next week when we’ll be interviewing our
last universal common ancestor
asking if roses are red in the dark
letting sour words go by & language end

I’d like to take this opportunity
to thank Jeff Hilson for his fb link
to Ultra-lounge 2: Organs in Orbit

(1996) in which Mr. Ghost
Goes to Town accompanied by Laura
endures as art but not as we know it


Amor, che nel pensier mio vive et regna

I wonder if the hardware comes with Love
preloaded insisting on an upgrade
every time you try to turn a corner
these warning lights keep flashing on & off

once a year the statue seems to weep blood
in silent condemnation of desire
& the wish to be completed tonight
way beyond any reasonable doubt

I chained myself to this sixteen year old
birch when the gap between the tree & word
finally became too painful to bear

I’m listening to February night
where distances between the sounds of owls
& human vowels feel galaxies depart



Come talora al caldo tempo sòle

a gnat dips into the pink & nervy
privates of an unsuspecting stranger’s
eye & dies of moist & complex forces
while the stranger yells with indignation

which you’d think would teach a poet something
about the dangers of hurtling towards
the vulnerable parts of a person
who is blithely minding her own business

but no & I have the nerve to wonder
at her discomfort & embarrassment
as I keep on feeding my addiction

to a virtual muse I’m still hymning
into transubstantiation through these
demolished forests of ruined paper



Quand'io v'odo parlar sí dolcemente

whenever she whispers through my embers
archaic breezes from the dawn of time
revive & articulate my habit
singing silence into composition

I wonder if there’s time to learn German
or paraphrase music of the future
such as Messiaen’s Avignon bushes
teeming with the finches of our lady

whose hair curls back around imagined keys
to a new & unimagined music
which could lift us off the branches of time

& place which once imprisoned her presence
delicate as the egg of a goldcrest
I carry forever under my tongue



Né così bello il sol già mai levarsi

my heart is a park of albino deer
at dawn they see dark trees reassembling
as sentries of the inaccessible
where the sun now comes up like a goddess

at four in the morning lightning brightened
the walls of your house but no-one saw it
except the pale ghost of the parallel
universe where you fell into my arms

through to the reality of morning
saturated by dew & your absence
standing in the horror of the normal

temporary daylight anaesthetic
takes effect again with a warming breeze
but night is so much older than the wind




All of the above sonnets are published in the collection 'Snowclone Detritus', from Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, available here.

copyright © 2013 Peter Hughes