Umberto Piersanti

Red Thistle

when the sirocco ceases, the bitter cliff
—the thorns remain through the long winter,
the ox moans as its white mass
sinks down through the snow—
throws out its flowers among the sticks
blood-red, a violet point
rooted in earth; you cannot see it
in the lush grasses of April

the girls arrive toward evening
collect good herbs for holiday meals
rip up clematis, digging around it
and pulling from earth deep-rooted weeds
but who becomes a woman that very day
and who hand grips around the thistle
a thorn will remain buried in her flesh
blood shoots from her hand, a little always
forever she will detest all living men
and from them will keep her distance

— translated from the Italian by M. F. Rusnak