To Spend the Afternoon
To spend the afternoon, absorbed and pale,
beside a burning garden wall;
to hear, among the stubble and the thorns,
the blackbirds cackling and the rustling snakes.
On the cracked earth or in the vetch
to spy on columns of red ants
now crossing, now dispersing,
atop their miniature heaps.
To ponder, peering through the leaves,
the heaving of the scaly sea
while the cicadas' wavering screech
goes up from balding peaks.
And walking out into the sunlight's glare
to feel with melancholy wonder
how all of life and its travail
is in this following a wall
topped with the shards of broken bottles.
~Eugenio Montale translated by David Young