To My Silent Children

Now I am old.
The season of memories
and farewells has arrived for me.
The season of postponed accounts
that now need to be paid in full.

For my surviving children,
I will have all the time
that remains to me.
I can do this without haste,
awaiting the right moment.
They will again bring me
surprises, news,
so many changes.

And it is to those
—I don’t even know
how many of them there are—
who have not seen the world
that I want to give
this second and final farewell.

I would like to have seen you
speak your first words,
take a step
in the world of the living,
tell me something
even with your gaze.
But those eyes
never opened.

You know,
even your father,
with his hands barely extended,
touches non-being.
But my posthumous
not-being
will be very different
from your never having been,
my sweet silent children.

To the child of Tide,
elementary school teacher,
with confused ideas
about everything:
she had a hemorrhage.
It was my mother
who took her to the hospital.

To the child of Eva,
enigmatic New Yorker,
reader of poetry,
black hair;
she kept her face veiled
as protection from the day.
I said goodbye to you
on a snowy afternoon
in Burlington, in Vermont.

To the little one of Vera
—the most romantic,
old-fashioned woman,
frightened
by the fast pace of modern life—
would you have been like your mother,
all lace and preludes?
Au revoir,
little princess.

To the little Tuscan.
He arrived too soon
because of too much love.
You could not have had
a more beautiful beginning,
even though nothing more
than a beginning.
Brief
and luminous life,
you are always with us.
Arrivederci,
my love.

My faintly sketched children,
hinted at, imagined,
your father thinks of you.
That is very little,
I know.
But the air
in my lungs
was very scarce
from such a long
trip.

One thing
I want to tell you:
sometimes
I have arrived
at the other shore.
Just a little
of you lives on
in your siblings.

Now I must leave you
forever.
I offer you this small life
made of words.
I have nothing else
to give you.

Something of you
will remain here
in our midst.
I will not let you disappear
altogether:
now you are memory
and ink.

Where time will not exist,
beyond the confines
of the possible,
we will be together again.
This time, for real.
I give you
my word.

About the Author

This poem is from the final poetry collection of Julio Monteiro Martins, La grazia di casa mia, published in 2013 by Rediviva Edizioni (Milan). Martins (1955–2014) was born in Niterói, Brazil, but lived for many years in Italy. He was a prominent teacher, publisher, and writer of essays, stories, theater works, and poetry. In his home country he had worked as a lawyer for human rights and environmental causes; in Italy he was director of the online journal Sagarana. Almost none of his work has been published in English.

The translators: Donald Stang is a longtime student of Italian. His translations of Italian poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Carrying the Branch, by Glass Lyre Press; Silk Road; Pirene’s Fountain; Newfound; America, I Call Your Name, by Sixteen Rivers Press; and thedreamingmachine.com. Helen Wickes’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Confrontation, Massachusetts Review, Sagarana, Soundings East, South Dakota Review, Spillway, Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Westview, Willow Review, Zone 3, and ZYZZYVA, among many others. She has also published four books of her poetry.