L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle

From The Years (Arc Publications, £8)



I came to tend – I lie – to visit the grave of a friend

and found an ugly shrub with waxy leaves

had made the plot its home. Since my last attendance


ten years had passed – doing I can’t think what,

except translate a dead man’s words – and now

the whole granite headstone was obscured


by brambles and weeds and this excrescence.

All overgrown. My friend had somehow ended up

in a thicket of Cyrillic, the White Russian sector


who have cared a lot better for their lost ones.

Or so you’d think if love were judged like that.

Now that I’m older than he ever was,


in far worse nick than he would have been,

I dimly sense how we’re the wrong way round.

Him under, me standing on the ground.


I snapped some branches from the shrub

half-expecting a hurt, indignant voice

to bubble up – bobok! bobok! – from the ragged


limbs – a reproach for the failure of

our friendship, the careless words, the disregard,

after the heaven-haven of the early years.


Now at least his name can be read, though not

the words we had the mason carve below,

the untranslated last line of Paradiso.