7 October 1999 - Aesculus Hippocastanum, Gli Ippocastani della Scuola G. Carducci
The Horse-Chestnuts of the School G. Carducci
During recess we played,
around the towering giants, on the gravel walks;
with leafy tops they shaded the grounds of my school.
"Guardateci," they whispered and I ignored their message like a fool.
They cast away as useless gifts
the plump chestnuts of their dreams,
recalling the days spent by their ancestors in the Indian lands
refiltering the lymph of their genes.
Absorbing the red taste of the Istrian clay they shed
away in useless toil memories of a distant soil
they could hardly recall, together with the wizened leaves and red
stems of a dry Istrian fall, in a town soon to be called Rovinji . . . .
The deep summer shadows
had stretched avid tendrils into shy Victory gardens
hopefully planted at their feet.
Fertile ground they loved in the meadowy soil of India,
they still tried to meet.
Ippocastani we called them, or horse-chestnut trees,
edible fruits they didn't bear
useless as the spiny mines of beached submarines
in those bitter days of '43.
And yet last Sunday I did see them,
rolling down the hill in Bethlehem the old friends,
plump chestnut fruits whitish faces smiling through
the smooth horse-like brownish skins.
Many still hid in the spiny green helmets
which grape-like hung in the old tree.
"How are our brothers in Rovigno? Yes, near Lemme!”
in unison they said, "I am lonesome, here in Bethlehem,
can't you see?" sadly the tree said.
I did not answer, thinking: "Perhaps by now they are all dead."
So I picked the inedible fruit to plant in my yard
to relive my memories or inspire a little young bard . . . .
Winked the kind tree, "Il mio figlio non è cosi vile<br>se tu lo farai crescere nel tuo cortile."
("My son is not so vile; if you'll let him grow in your backyard.")
Franco G. Aitala
7 October 1999, Dedicated to my daughter Michelle, who lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania next to an Ippocastano.