On Approaching Forty

The thought pursues me through this dreary town
where the wind sweeps down from the high plateau
and where a diving chimney swift can cut
the slender thread of mountains far away.

So soon come forty years of restlessness,
of tedium, of unexpected joy,
quick as a gust of wind in March is quick
to scatter light and rain. Soon come delays,
snatched from the straining hands of those I love,
torn from my haunts, the customs of my years
suddenly crushed to make me understand.
The tree of sorrow shakes its branches…

The years rise like a swarm around my shoulders.
Nothing has been in vain. This is the work
which all complete together and alone,
the living and the dead, to penetrate
the impenetrable world, down open roads,
down mineshafts of discovery and loss,
and learned from many loves or only one,
from father down to son–till all is clear.

And having said this, I can start out now,
easy in the eternal company
of all things living, of all things dead,
to disappear in either dust or fire,
if any fire endures beyond its flame.

Translated from the Italian of Mario Luzi