The Black Stars

Let no one sing again of love or war.

The order from which the cosmos took its name has been dissolved;
The heavenly legions are a tangle of monsters,
The universe – blind, violent, strange – assails us.
The sky is strewn with horrible dead suns,
Dense sediments of mangled atoms.
Only desperate heaviness emanates from them,
Not energy, not messages, not particles, not light.
Light itself falls back down, broken by its own weight,
And all of us human seed, we live and die for nothing,
The skies perpetually revolve in vain.

by Primo Levi (1919-1987), translated by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann.


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4 Responses to “The Black Stars”

  1. telescoper Says:

    And tomorrow will be milder, with light drizzle.

    • Garret Cotter Says:

      I remember I was more than a little chilled when I first read this poem not least because I had written one about the far future universe full of nothing black dwarfs and black holes as a teenager – mine was execrable poetry though!

      Remember too how Levi also turned the concept of the universe of dead little balls into something achingly beautiful – how “Carbon” builds and builds to:

      “This cell belongs to a brain, and it is my brain, the brain of me who is writing; and the cell in question, and within it the atom in question, is in charge of my writing, in a gigantic minuscule game which nobody has yet described. It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one.”

  2. telescoper Says:

    I have been extremely remiss in not including anything so far on this blog by Primo Levi. I do feel a bit nervous about poetry in translation, but this one I think is very strong so I decided to post it.

    If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t read his The Periodic Table then I suggest you add it to your list immediately.

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