“Love Affairs” by Cesare Pavese

Love Affairs

It’s dawn on the black hills, and the cats
drowse on the tiles. A boy fell from the roof
last night and broke his back. The wind
quivers in the cool of the leaves. The red clouds,
high in the sky, are warm and move slowly.
Down in the alley a stray dog’s sniffing
the dead boy on the cobbles. But a shrill wail
rises among the tiles: someone’s unhappy.

The crickets were chirping all night, and the stars
went out in the breeze. The brightness of dawn
quenches even the eyes of cats in heat–
the cats the boy was watching. The female
was wailing for her tom. Nothing’s any use–
not the treetops or the red clouds–she wails
to the bright sky, as if it were still night.

The boy was spying on the cats making love.
The snarling dog nosing the boy’s body
was there before dawn. He was running from the light
on the back of the hill when the light caught him
swimming in the river, drenched with water
like a meadow in the morning dew. The bitches
were still howling.

The stream runs smoothly, skimmed

by swallows. Down from the red clouds they dip
in joy at finding the river deserted.

Cesare Pavese, from Hard Labor, Ecco Press, 1979

Image via https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/527738.Hard_Labor


  1. Great poem, thanks for sharing! I’d never heard of this poet, but I’m highly interested in reading more of his work.


    1. He’s probably better known in English a novelist, but the book this comes from is well worth grabbing if you run across a copy. He wrote these while sentenced to detention in a seaside village, for anti-Fascist activities. They’re so stark and resolutely concrete, the language is so simple and pared down, that I can never quite understand how they work so well.

      Liked by 1 person

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