In a cramped, dingy foyer
of a train station in the countryside,
I’m seated opposite a mother and her child,
with the vague presence of a clerk
moving about in a backroom office.
Between the three of us
there’s a turtle on its shell,
belly up on the floor, trying to right itself;
its four legs and tail, wriggling in the air.
It seems too big to be the child’s pet.
Perhaps it was just caught outside
in the grassy yard near the stream.
The mother is oblivious to the animal’s distress,
and the child seems self-satisfied.
I feel helpless, as if watching a foregone conclusion,
but why must it be so?
Why can’t I simply reach over to the turtle
and return it to its feet?
What a slander to its beauty and intelligence
should one call its plight
a symbol of our brutal and ignorant era!
There’s no train coming,
and the clerk won’t show his face.
I can’t execute a basic remedy,
can only get up and leave
to wander the countryside
and search for other signs of life.
The mother will become childless,
the child, motherless, the turtle,
destined for an unearthly fate:
to be absorbed by the floor,
and discharged as a dark mosaic
along the dim passageways
of our bewildering days.
Camp Robinson Crusoe
Near the crater of an empty foundation,
overgrown with brush and vine,
an old basketball court’s been replaced
by a stand of young pine;
the aged backboard, like a strange treetop,
up on twin metal posts whose rust blends in
with the colors of the surrounding trunks.
Amid this bygone summer camp,
I blend in, too, and so aligned,
resurrect the past with a penetrating
ear that reaches far enough
to hear splashing water,
children playing, and a bouncing ball,
then disappearing into silence, all.
Stephen Campiglio founded and directed for 12 years the Mishi-maya-gat Spoken Word & Music Series at Manchester Community College in Connecticut, and more recently, co-edited and contributed to Noh Place Poetry Anthology (Lost Valley Press, Hardwick, MA: 2022). Other poems and translations have appeared of late in Aji Magazine, DASH, Gradiva (Florence, Italy), Italian Americana, Journal of Italian Translation, The Octotillo Review, SLAB, Stand (Leeds, England), SurVision (Dublin, Ireland), and VIA: Voices in Italian Americana. Winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize for his version of a poem by Giuseppe Bonaviri (1924-2009), his current project, with Elena Borelli of King's College London, will result in the first, complete translation of Giovanni Pascoli's (1855-1912) volume of poetry, Canti di Castelvecchio. Campiglio has published two chapbooks, Cross-Fluence, and Verbal Clouds through Various Magritte Skies.