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The Italian Family at Lunch

Six months of total drought have done their work.
The scrubby oak beside the road
sports a full crop of dead brown leaves.
The branches on this pair of cherry trees
carry a remnant only
and their trunks are paddling in the dust.
The files of olives and of vines
look well enough, made for this kind of thing,
but certainly the yield will now be less
than normal, and that will put up prices.

It is equal with the maize crop down the hill,
drying out too quickly, low on bulk.
Heavy rain at this end of the season
is no good either, because of the rot.
The variation in the prices
is always a problem of the small grower;
it is a matter for the government.
We have too this problem of the government
or, to speak precisely, of the absence
of the government, because for weeks now
they have not managed to agree in Rome.
Politics in Italy are complex.
Finally who knows what is the future?
I judge that we are not significant —
it is the Superpowers who decide.
The Superpowers are certainly a problem.

Another problem is Ramina, who
will not behave, and insists to throw sand
in her cousin’s eye, and will do so.
Ramina, ma Ramina!

                          No, the drought
is much worse in the south, you know, much worse.
In Sicily they are locking up the wells
and guarding them all night with the revolvers.
There is no water. It is very grave.
The south has always so many problems,
the worst of all, the unemployment.
You see, in Torino, in Milan
they make these robots and these new machines
that do the work of ten men in a day.
The people have no jobs. They go to France,
to Germany, to England, it is no good.

Ramina now has managed to provoke
the silent cousin to retaliate.
The women mop up the ensuing noise.
The men reach to their pockets for a smoke.

After the war a few years, I remember
they had the money from the Marshall Plan
and everywhere was building.
Fifty, sixty men for one palazzo.
Now you pass the building site,
you see ten, six men
who move the handles on the new machines.
My son is at the university,
is studying to be an engineer.
When he has diploma, he is not sure
if there will be a job for him. You see,
in Italy we have these kind of problems.
It is a matter for the government
but… I have said already.

The ice-cream which Ramina has received
has made her good, the cousin equally.
The table on the terrace
matches the discussion in disordered elegance
and noon and afternoon change places in the sky.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by the author