Baia sperduta

Bradyseism has drowned the ancient town of Baiae. Hence the irretrievable play on Baia/bay in the Italian version of a poem by Joseph Brodsky I recollected yesterday while walking back from Capo Miseno – from which Pliny the Elder rowed out to mount his fateful rescue operation at Stabiae while his nephew stayed home, claiming he had too much homework – toward the crater of the newest mountain in Europe – imaginatively named Monte Nuovo – on the shore of Avernus, the classical entrance to hell.


Baia sperduta: non più di venti barche a vela.
Reti, parenti dei lenzuoli, stese ad asciugare.
Tramonto. I vecchi guardano la partita al bar.
La cala azzurra prova a farsi turchina.
Un gabbiano artiglia l’orizzonte prima
che si rapprenda. Dopo le otto è deserto
il lungomare. Il blu irrompe nel confine
oltre il quale prende fuoco la stella

I don’t know if there’s already an English translation, but this is, more or less, what I hear in my head when I read those lines:


Lost Baia/bay: no more than twenty ships at sail.
Nets, related to sheets, hang to dry.
Sunset. Old guys watch the match at the bar.
The blue cove tries for darker blue.
A seagull claws the horizon
before it coagulates. After eight,
the seafront is deserted. Blue breaks the confine
beyond which a star catches fire.

I’d plumb forgotten that I stole Brodsky’s seagull for a postcard poem of my own twenty-(very)-odd years ago, written at Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island in the wake of a terrible automobile accident. Not that it matters, except as evidence that memory too is subject to Bradyseism.

A harbor where the dryads dwell
among the roots of an enormous Tour Eiffel
of oak. A pristine,
upturned palm of aquamarine
upon which ships unfurl their sails and reverse a
course toward home, reflecting clouds, and vice versa.
At or around eight,
an aeroplane, or seagull, pierces the horizon—whose failure to coagulate,
as one’s shadow is cast like a net,
crimsons the surf at his feet and produces a sunset.

2 Responses to “Baia sperduta”

  1. Josh Says:

    That seagull is clawing his way from one poem to another…

  2. wchambliss Says:

    Eternally circling our trash heaps of words for tasty morsels.

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