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Erri De Luca, translated by Patrick Williamson

[We see the north star surge]

We see the north star surge, a hand’s-breadth
from the tropical desert, over the evening dune.

It was the last out of a cart, and us from a caravan,
it is two arm-lengths now, rises with us.

No birds, no butterflies, sea air sterile of flight,
a few fish shoot up like spit, with a tail-flick.

Lean out, storm clouds are in sight, splatters shock,
the shining water wasted as it spills into the sea.

Lightning in Africa slams and lashes the ground,
these are sparks from a blacksmith’s hammer.

They burst white fountains, don’t leave a mark,
the sea closes up again faster than desert sand.

If we were the herd under the thunderstorms,
the shepherd’s whistle alone would calm us.

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