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This article is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.

A Cricket for Pirandello Angela Leighton
for Roger Pearson



Nascere grilli è pure qualche cosa
              — Pirandello

Our trade’s translation, whether poems or prose –
            and here in Rome
struggling to render Pirandello’s ‘crickets’
I must lose the creature or else the dream,
meaning’s gravity or else the grace.
Nascere grilli, he writes, to signify
fancies, daydreams, born on the hop…
but no insect makes a leap that’s fit
for Englishing that device of wit.

So here’s a leap-poem, Roger. It goes
            channel-hopping
from me to you, scrambling the frontiers –
since we who traffic from tongue to tongue,
mother to other, native to strange,
must make thought’s impulse dance to the tune
that words call, by whims of their own:
idiom or pun, some self-stranging homonym,
the distant phones that ring in a phoneme.

Now skip: think ragwort, that hardy immigrant,
            taking root
in Oxford’s first botanical garden,
later, on Isambard’s cinder-tracks
riding westwards, seeding the dry ways –
but remembering still in the rails’ sapped clinker
how once it rode the charcoal flows
of Etna’s pyroclastic scree—
one hop ahead, gold-gracing earth’s gravity.

So Nascere grilli… On a Sicilian plain
               small jumping jacks,
blue and orange in the hot afternoons,
would gleam beside his rockfast tomb –
flashes of insight, lost as seen.
We’ll dream – so ...


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