FIRST IMPOSSIBLE DEFINITION OF NIGHT
to Primo Levi
The night turns like lava in the belly of the mountains.
Threatening clouds hang in the sky between Naples and Salerno
As Pliny decides to leave his house, to leave behind
Friends, a wife, a nephew, family, but also
A work, still incomplete and meant for eternity.
Between Naples and Salerno, trees grow towards the sky,
With their dark, blue-black foliage.
Since time immoral, Vesuvius has suppressed a fire as we suppress longing,
But today the ruler of city and landscape knows
That he is no longer ruler of his own fire.
Pliny has a longing too; he wants to voyage out,
To leave land and home for the waves of the sea,
Which lead to revelation and to completion of forgotten books.
Above Pompeii hangs a dark forest that slowly rises,
Cloaking Pliny in darkness.
In Pompeii trees snap and houses fall to their knees in entreaty.
Pliny can offer no resistance
To the black sea that flows from the mountainside.
Pliny is buried in stone
And from that day on, when it became dark at noon,
The eruption has always been remembered,
But no-one reads the works of Pliny.
At night this eternal fire still breaks through the stones,
But his atoms have been lost for ever.