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Umberto Saba

“To My Wife

You are like a young
white hen.
Her feathers ruffle
in the wind, her neck curves
down to drink, and
she rummages in the earth:
but, in walking, she has
your slow, queenly step,
haughty and proud.
She is better than the male.
She is like the females
of all the serene animals
who draw near to God.
Here, if my eye, if my judgment
doesn’t deceive me, among these,
you find your equals,
and in no other woman.
When evening lulls
the little hens to sleep,
they make sounds that call
to mind those mild, sweet
voices with which you argue
with your pains, and don’t know
that your voice has the soft, sad
music of the henyard.

You are like a pregnant
heifer,
still free, and without
heaviness, merry, in fact;
who, if someone strokes her, turns
her neck, where a tender
pink tinges her flesh.
If you meet up with her, and hear
her bellow, so mournful
is this sound that you tear
at the earth to give her
a present. In the same way,
I offer my gift to you
when you are sad.

You are like a tall, thin
female dog, that always
has so much sweetness
in her eyes and ferociousness
in her heart.
At your feet, she seems
a saint who burns
with an indomitable fervor
and in this way looks at you
as her God and Lord.
When you are at home, or going
down the street, to anyone who tries,
uninvited, to approach you,
she uncovers her shining
white teeth. And her love
suffers from jealousy.

You are like the fearful
rabbit. Within her narrow
cage, she stands upright
to look at you, and extends
her long, still ear; she deprives
herself of the husks and
roots that you bring her,
and cowers, seeking
the darkest corners.
Who might take away
this food? Who might
take away the fur which
she tears from her back
to add to the nest where
she will give birth?
Who would ever make
you suffer?

You are like the swallow
which returns in the spring.
But each autumn will depart—
you don’t have this art.
You have this of the swallow:
the light movements;
that which, to me, seemed
and was old, you proclaim
another spring.

You are like the provident
ant. She whom the grandmother
speaks of to the child as they
go out in the countryside.
And thus I find you
in the bumble bee
and in all the females
of all the serene animals
who draw near to God.
And in no other woman.”


Umberto Saba
tags: love-poem
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