primo levi

Lauren Withrow

Lilith, our second kinswoman,
Created by God with the same clay
That served for Adam.
Lilith lives in the middle of the undertow,
But emerges at the new Moon
And flies restless through the snowy nights,
Irresolute between earth and sky.
She spins around in circles,
Rustles unexpected against the windows
Where newborn babies sleep.
She hunts then out and tries to kill them.
Therefore you will hang over their beds
The medallion with the three words.
But everything she does is useless: all her desires.
She coupled with Adam, after the sin,
But the only things born of her
Are spirits without bodies or peace.
It is written in the great book
That she is a beautiful woman, down to the waist.
The rest is will-o’-the-wisp and pale light.


Let no one sing again of love and war.

The order from which the cosmos took its name has been dissolved;
The heavenly legions are a table of monsters,
The universe ‒ blind, violent and strange ‒ assails us.
The sky is strewn with horrible dead suns,
Dense sediments of mangled atoms.
Only desperate heaviness emanates from them,
Not energy, not messages, not particles, not light.
Light itself falls back down, broken by its own weight,
And all of us human seed, we live and die for nothing,
The skies perpetually revolve in vain.

The Black Stars

We stopped, ventured a glance
Down the sad green jaws,
And the strength in our breasts dissolved
Like lost hope.
Within him a sad strength sleeps,
And when at night, in the silence
Of the moon, he sometimes shrieks and roars,
It is because, in his stone bed,
Huge sluggish dreamer,
He is struggling to turn over and cannot.

The Glacier

'Watchman, what of the night?'

'I've heard the own repeat
Its hollow prescient note,
The bat shriek at its hunting,
The water-snake rustle
Under the pond's soaked leaves.
I have heard vinous voices,
Stammering, angry, as I drowsed
In the tavern near the chapel.
I have heard lovers' whispers, laughter,
And the laboured breathing of absolved longings,
Adolescents murmuring in their dreams,
Others tossing, sleepless from desire.
I've seen silent heat-lightning,
The terror every night
Of the girl who lost her way
And doesn't know bed from coffin.
I've heard the hoarse panting
Of a lonely old man struggling with death,
A woman torn in labour,
The cry of a just-born child.
Stretch out and sleep, citizen.
Everything is in order; this night is have over.'


You ‒ hotblooded, hasty, coarse ‒
What do you know of these soft limbs of mine
Except their flavour? And yet
They feel both cold and warmth,
And, deep in the water, the impure and the pure.
They contract and relax, obedient
To intimate mute rhythms,
And, quick-moving stranger, they enjoy food,
Cry out in hunger like your limbs.
If, walled between my stony valves,
I had memory and intelligence like you,
And cemented to my rock, I divined the sky?
I'm more like you than you imagine,
Condemned to secrete, secrete
Tears, sperm, mother-of-pearl and pearls.
Like you, If a splinter injures my mantle,
Day after day I cover it over silently.

Pearl Oyster

How much dust settles
On the nervous tissue of a life?
Dust has neither weight nor sound,
Colour nor aim: it veils, erases,
Obliterates, hides and paralyses.
It doesn't kill. It extinguishes.
Isn't dead but sleeps.
It harbours millennial spores
Teeming with future harm.
Tiny chrysalids waiting
To split, decompose, break down:
Pure confused indefinite ambush
Ready for the coming assault,
Impotences that will become potent
At the sounding of a silent signal.
But it also harbours various seeds,
Half-drowsy ones that will grow into ideas,
Each one close-packed with an unforeseen
Universe, new, lovely and strange.
Therefore respect and fear
This grey and formless mantle:
It contains evil and good,
Danger, and many written things.

- Dust

Having a bit of a moment with Mr Levi today.