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The eel

The eel, the siren of
icy waters which leaves the Baltic
to reach our waters, reach
the estuaries, the rivers
deeply beneath whose hostile spate it mounts,
from branch to branch and then
from fibril to fibril, attenuated,
ever more inland, ever more into the heart
of limestone rock, worming
through troughs of slime until one day
a light slanting from chestnut boughs
ignites the slither in stagnant sumps,
in the ditches which descend
from the cliffs of the Apennines to the Romagna,
eel, torch and lash,
arrow of Love on earth
which only our gullies or seared
creeks of the Pyrenees conduct
to fertile paradises;
green soul which seeks
life there where
gnaw only drought and desolation,
the spark which says
all begins where all seems
charred to carbon, a sunken stump,
brief rainbow, twin
to what is brightly clasped in your jewel-eyes
and glows there undefiled among the sons
of men, bedded into your mud, can you
not believe her a sister?

(Eugenio Montale, La bufera
Translated from the Italian by Alan Marshfield)