[Readings] | Pockets, by Patrizia Cavalli | Harper's Magazine

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By Patrizia Cavalli, from My Poems Won’t Change the World: Selected Poems, a bilingual edition to be published in September by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Cavalli is the author of six collections of poetry. Translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff.

How different my life would be
if all that surrounds me and is with me
were inclined to gently resemble
my needs. I’d have it made.
Pockets, for instance, yes, pockets.
Pockets are always placed too low.
Walking along I look for where they end
and to do so bend and round my back
shoulders drooping I sag, obliged
to survey the foul dread Roman
pavements all ditches and mounds,
a frightful geography of uncertainty;
those cobblestones now always disconnected
in so many gaping shadows, grids
in which everything appears to sink.
If they were placed high and on the side, instead,
the hands would find a resting place
forcing the shoulders to retreat.
And thus, upright, perpendicular,
I’d be equipped with a bold gait
that presciently dodges and circles
beer-bottle shards and overfed dogs’
gigantic turds.
And skipping across chasms and trash
I’d look ahead, and to the left and to the right,
with benevolent passing glances
at midrange, where there’s more on offer.
But I’d be in a hurry, because my gait by now
swift and breezy, looks ahead
to its true haven,
where if you pay the toll you’ll get a fever.
And so I too would have a goal
I have a goal, then.
Or so it would seem.


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