Eugenio Montale. Under a Lombard Painting

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It was October12, 1982

my birthday

when 200,000 unemployed graduates

for want of anything better

occupied Palazzo Madama.

I too have always been unemployed

I objected to those who wanted to abuse me.

True, they threw a white bathrobe over me

and a crimson belt

but my true occupation the skein

of Truth

I never foundand I die unjustly

beneath your cudgels,

even you won’t find it, friends.

Put on your bathrobes too

and we’ll be one more—200,000 and one.

After which I collapsed in an armchair

in front of a painting by Cremona

and in the turmoil only the painting was still.





When I go away for a day or two

the pigeons pecking

at my windowsill

stage a protest

as their union contract requires.

On my return an extra ration

of crumbs restores order,

which disappoints the blackbird

shuttling back and forth between me

and the venerable old man in the apartment

opposite. My family is reduced

to next to nothing. And some men have one or more

wasted on them, alas!

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