Meena Alexander
Reading Leopardi

Late July, armpits of earth flung here and there,
Scent of shattered bark, clots of resin,
But this lime tree stands clear, shiny leaves bottling up heat.
I unwrap the scarf from my throat, I sit on a bench reading Leopardi.

Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle
he begins and at the end
Longs to drown in dark infinity.
I’m three hundred miles from Recanati his hometown.

Last night in a round of rushing wind,
I heard the names I was given flee from me.
Those  names rose out of childhood and lagoon dirt,
Out of Arabic and wet sand,

Out of Hindi and fresh pounded chilli
Which amma always mixed with lime juice
When she came in from the garden,
A pile of fruit cradled in her sari.

Out of Malayalam and the milk of dreams
Scented with crushed almonds, my dead grandmother’s recipe.
Out of  the language of love, sharp moans
And low warbles, sweet muffled cries.

Stripped of the names that were given me, I sit silent in the shade
Of a lime tree reading Leopardi.
In a lake so deep it could swallow a hill I see stumps of wood float,
Making an altar of ruin, and slow waves turn the color of infinity.