In Memory of Joseph

Saturday, July 15, 2023


Mary Hawley

I had coffee with Brodsky in a Janiculum bar
I didn’t know English, he didn’t speak the language of Cervantes
We could barely understand a damned word 
He ordered a hard-boiled egg sandwich while reflecting
Upon the innate clarity of the Roman ruins
At least that’s what I deduced from the way he was running
His ideas like a razor across the face of a boy
The clowns are destroying the circus, he said
It seemed rude to quibble
If I were a pre-Raphaelite I too would have fallen in love with Ophelia
If I were a graduate in exact sciences I would have reinvented the zero
Nor should a few decapitations bother anyone
We both admired polygamists
Nevertheless, our phlegmatic temperament
Most closely resembled a warship
And even the pigeons thought twice before approaching
He was on his way to Ischia, not far from where Virgil lived
Honoring his vagrant past
He grew more rigid while shuffling around some names
Shavings planed from wood, tears of someone slicing onions
We left off gossiping, we spoke of bees
We spoke of air crashes and cuneiform writings
Of chickens in the mud, Caravaggios v. Berninis
A wonderful guy, they had kicked him out of a mental hospital
And they kicked me out of the Academy a few days later


About the Translator: Mary Hawley is an American poet, fiction writer, and literary translator. Current translation projects include a collaboration with Silvia Goldman Pérez on a sequence of poems in Spanish and English, and translating two novels by the Uruguayan writer Sergio Altesor Licandro. Her poems, short stories, and translations have been widely published, and she received a 2019 Illinois Literary Award in fiction.

Saturday, July 15, 2023