One can't converse with shades
on the phone.
During our mute dialogues there is
no microphone boom or loudspeaker.
However, even words serve
when they don't concern us, picked up
by mistake by a telephone operator
and relayed to someone who
isn't there, doesn't hear.
Once they came from Vancouver
late in the night while I was waiting
for a call from Milan.
At first I was taken aback,
but then hoped that the mix-up would continue.
One voice from the Pacific, the other
from the lagoon. At that time
the two voices talked freely as never
before. Then nothing happened,
we assured the operator that
everything was perfect, in order,
and could continue, in fact must continue.
Nor did we ever know who'd foot the bill
for that miracle.
But I didn't remember a single word.
The time zone was different, the other
voice wasn't there, and I
wasn't there for her, even the languages
got mixed up, a hotchpotch of jargons,
curse and laughter. By now
after all these years
the other voice has forgotten and perhaps
thinks I'm dead. I think
it's she who is dead, but was
alive for a second at least,
and did not know it.
--TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN BY G. SINGH
From "99 Poems in Translation," selected by Harold Pinter, Anthony Astbury and Geoffrey Godbert (Grove: 150 pp., $11)