A few years ago, a friend of mine was cleaning out her closet and found a copy of The Penguin Book of Women Poets, which she then gave to me, most likely because I’m the only friend of hers who would be interested in such a thing. Since then, it’s been sitting unread on bookshelves in my various homes. But a month or so ago, I picked it up and randomly turned to a poem called “To Trust” by Antonia Pozzi, who lived in Milan in the early 1900’s. According to the biographical note, she committed suicide at twenty-six, after which, a notebook of her poems was found and subsequently published. The poem that this anthology contains really struck me. I’m not sure why. Maybe because there’s such a beautiful, quiet hope to it, and that’s worth ruminating on, even if the poet herself wasn’t able to hold onto that hope in the end.
The poem also goes quite wonderfully with this Jason Mraz song I’ve been listening to nonstop called “I Won’t Give Up.” It’s a funny thing, hope–it can seem so dodgy and flighty, abandoning us right when we need it most. But in that word book I talked about yesterday (Wordcatcher by Phil Cousineau), he defines a French term for hope called espérance, a kind of “hope that keeps the heart kindled and the soul intact, despite the degradations of life,” or “the permanent state or condition of living one’s life in hopeful tranquility.”
Hopeful tranquility. I think that’s what this poem has, and I would put forth the idea that “hopeful tranquility” can only be gained after enduring what the Jason Mraz song talks about–you have to go through trials, to be staunchly determined not to give up, to press on even when you have no reason to believe anything will ever be all right again. It is only by doing so that you can arrive on the other side and find a peace that surpasses understanding, a faith unable to be broken, a hope that defies all logic. The kind of hope that resides in a person who watches the frozen ground all winter longer, patiently waiting for flowers.
by Antonia Pozzi
(translated from Italian by Lynne Lawner)
I have so much faith in you. I believe
I could wait for your voice
silently, through centuries
Like the sun
you know all the secrets:
you could make the geraniums
and the wild zagra bloom
deep in the marble
quarries and legendary
I have so much faith in you. I’m as calm
as an Arab wrapped
in his white barracan
listening to God
make the barley grow around his house.