from issue #2: Poetry by Paolo Totaro

Photo (CC) Phillie Casablanca @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Phillie Casablanca @ Flickr

Tide of tides

It will be June, month of high tides
in this god-forsaking corner of the Pacific Ocean.

Well past our estuary, past the marshes
and the worms drilling into pylons,
past the blue soldier-crabs
immersed in their writing on the sands,
she will be force-feeding these broken bays.

Self-important, that queen of tides
will be higher than ever seen at the anxious gauge
and we shall watch but won’t rush to any other corner,
watch as she pauses at the fireplaces
to try perhaps one last smoke,
while mounting floor windows and the horizon line.
Listen: the silence will be unbroken.

She will pleasingly rest over the wrinkled roof
of the beach-house.

Inhale: has the smell of the sea changed?
Listen more: has the sound changed of the new winter?
Is the sun rotating with piercing sight of flames?
No and it’s no use distracting your attention
or keeping it fixed onto the idea of your own doom.

Will these paintings float?
Will these chairs, already safely anchored
to the convivial table?
And this ream of paper, will it be toy to waves
and feed to plankton?

Will I still be here or, from some place above,
evergreen see the sea again slowly withdraw
under the shadows of the leafy pediment,
each day faintly more generous to the shore?
For a long second there had been this dying expectation
based on reading news from other islands
at other corners of this alien Ocean
fallen to the long hand of man’s outgrowth .

But when it comes you find it is flush with all imagination
and less scary. It’s a fact
natural as this seepage from broken vessels,
brown blood on the hands,
the failing equilibrium
or the pose each day more bent.

Earth is ageing. These bays age.
This old beach who saw the ritual feasting.
These verses rhyme-less and scanty of clear sense.
But the oscillations of the moon, like of taste,
sweep away bad and good
but hand back any overdue
in the fullness
of astronomical time.


PAOLO TOTARO, born in Naples, Italy, lives in Sydney and has been writing since the ’60s poetry in both English and Italian. He was Foundation Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW, a Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission, a contributor to The Bulletin, Visiting Professor at the University of Western Sydney and Pro-Chancellor and Member of Council of the University of Technology, Sydney, among other positions. His main interest has been human rights. A practising chamber musician, of late he has concentrated on poetry. He has published a novella in Italian, Storia Patria (1992) for which he won the Due Giugno Literary Prize; Collected Poems 1950-2011 (2012). He has also been published in anthologies of Italian Australian Poetry; in Two Centuries of Australian Poetry, Oxford University Press (1994), Crearta(1998), Quadrant (2013, 14), Contrappasso (2012, 2013); Le Simplegadi (2012): Water Access Only (2012),ARC/Cordite Special Book on Australian Poetry (2014) and several other. A collection of bilingual poetry about children and war is nearing completion.

See Paolo Totaro’s poems from issue #1 of Contrappasso.

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