This is a poem which can be found in Primo Levi
's collected works
. It was not published before his death, but it stands as perhaps one of his saddest and most beautiful
I wouldn't want to upset the universe,
I'd like, if possible,
To cross the border silently,
With the light step of a smuggler.
The way one slips away from a party.
To stop without a screech
The [lungs' obstinate piston,
And say to the dear heart,
That mediocre musician without rhythm:
'After two, six billion beats
You must be tired too, so thanks, enough.'
If it were possible, as I was saying,
If it were not for those who will remain,
The work left truncated
(Every life is truncated),
The world's turns and its wounds;
If it were not for the unresolved burdens,
The debts incurred earlier on,
The old unavoidable obligations.
The poem is obviously from the point of view of someone, perhaps Levi himself, who is contemplating suicide, or at least wishing for death. Yet the speaker decides to live, not for a love of life, but because of 'The old unavoidable obligations' of life. It is a beautiful poem, even in its sadness, because it displays a true fragility: at one point the speaker seems to be pleading the case for death - (Every life is truncated) - even while knowing he cannot leave. It is particularly poignant because it was so written so close to Levi's own death, which some believe to be a suicide. It translates wonderfully, too, which is the real mark of a classic poem.