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Ned Condini

Honorable Mention 2007 Novice Christian Poetry Contest $50

About this Christian Poet:
Ned Condini, writer, translator, and literary critic, was the recipient of the PEN/Poggioli Award for his versions of poet Mario Luzi (New York, 1986) and of the Bordighera Prize for his rendering of Jane Tassi's Andsongsongsonglessness (Boca Raton, Florida, 2002. In November 2002 Condini placed first in the WinningWriters War Poetry Contest, New York. In October 2004 Chelsea Editions, New York, published his selection of Giorgio Caproni's poetic works, The Earth's Wall. For the MLA, New York, Condini has just completed an anthology of Modern and Contemporary Italian Poetry,Yet Fire is All.

I wrote this poem (and revised it scores of times) between the years 2000 and 2004, when I was still living in New Jersey. I tried to project Hamlet’s figure in a different milieu but in a similar plight—that of man trying to set the world aright.

Hamlet in Park Ridge
(for Mike Marchetti)

Crossing the bridge on waters veiled by mist
he thinks he could let go of the steering wheel
& slide off downwards firmly to his end.
So much beauty to see, no chance to see it.
The sky is reddening with slanted rays—
framing the scene where mallards go in pairs
gliding over the lake with no hesitation,
their compass clear, no terror in the heart
for any evening that may soon descend:
a shot from a hunter, stones from a boy, a drought
leaving them to their doom on shriveled shores.

Who guides them safely through the boundless sky,
who leads their steps on the difficult way
he too one day must tread alone? Forgotten
by him, merciful God recalls His birds
to tranquil ponds, sends them nesting in the reeds,
no knowledge of their limits, hour after given
hour fulfilling their fate with the composure
he sorely lacks, whispering through his teeth
as he drives on: patience, unwavering faith.

Searching for love and fame, losing love for fame,
so much goodness to hoard from our poor planet,
so little space to spend it, work breaking his spirit.
Come the Sabbath, in the late afternoon
he walks the miles to a secret cove to look
at what he calls his heron. The bird's there,
magnificent in its blue plumage, wading the clear
water with unruffled steps, a resting in time,
like the victorious V of the Canada geese
drawn across the air over the gauntlet of ice.
In the iridescent plumage of the heron
or in the exultant honking of the geese
leaving autumnal haunts for southern balms
he hears a muffled echo, a strange sound.

He too needs limpid waters, an escape
from murkiness, the trying fist of time,
the anxious shudder of his flesh at night
when there flocked to his horror all the ghosts
that hideous hell could conjure up: they streamed
from graveyards with the faces of his kin,
his friends and enemies, to curse man and his lot,
soured affections. But someone one day sprung
in him generosity only, buoyantly walked
with him the self-same path of joy and sorrow.
He must retrieve that sound with his companion.
It has whirred in his mind at dawns and sunsets,
in the midst of the fields or by the sea,
down in the valleys or on tops of mountains,
as light as the wind, indistinct as a dream.

People like him going to work in the rain,
through sleet and ice, carrying on their weak shoulders
the weight of the world, the apparent inanity of life,
its humiliations, its wrongness; seeking sense
in daily chores, thus softening its toll—
were part of that clarion, too, mirthful music binding
all humans on earth, making them bear their destiny,
however harsh, to an honorable end.

Clarion that like the geese's V was gesture
of affirmation: it meant utter fidelity
to an instinct implanted in their breast—
love that won't sway, the never-altered ritual,
hope that persists in the very jaws of death,
the rules of the game every creature must play.

Copyright ©2007 by Ned Condini