Sunday, 6 January 2013

Zanzotto: Occupations


To read him say he wipes the window
into childhood and sees its workers

Artisans at Veneto doorways
hewers of wood and grinders of knives

Is to wipe across the winter window
and watch trades as they went:

Milkman, leave those bottles on the footpath
catch up with your clink-clink horse cart

Garbage man, empty the stinking bins
from the shoulder, set down with grace

Butcher, amidst sawdust air, sever the offal
slice the lines accurately for hours

Ironmonger, lift the weight and feel
the time it will take for a hard sale

Blacksmith, fashion more glowing horseshoes
in the shed behind the bowsers

Knitters, by day and night make
home comfort go full length

He helps us see work without sentiment
labour worth the years it takes

Who are we, tied to the end of cables
our income a set of numbers in a vault?

And what are our chances of breakthrough
to an arcadia where task is meaning?

Even so, to read him is to set it down
the memory others call oral history

Or quaint, as if acquaintances were nice
while at the window they are true enough

Faces and names in a not distant place
a district of our own survivals

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