THE WORKER'S COUGH
I hear the worker coughing down below;
his cough comes up through the ground-floor grating
giving onto my garden, so that it avoids resonating among the plants
touched by the sun on this last morning of good weather. He,
the worker, down below, intent at his job, coughs now and then
pretty sure no one's hearing it. It's a seasonal sickness
but his cough's not a good one; it's worse than a flu.
He endures the illness, takes care of it, I imagine, like we
did when we were kids. Life for him remains decidedly uncomfortable;
no rest awaits him at home after work,
exactly like it is with us poor or almost poor guys.
See, life seemed to us to consist entirely of that poverty
in which one doesn't even have the right —naturally —
to the quiet use of a john or the solitude of a bed;
and when illness comes it's received heroically:
a worker's always 18, even if he has kids
bigger than him, ones new to those heroism's.
In short, in those wracking coughs
the tragic meaning of this beautiful October sun is revealed.
1969. Translated by Jack Hirschman
from In Danger
A Pasolini Anthology\edited, with an introduction
by Jack Hirschman
(City Lights Books 2110)