Poetry by Sebastiano Satta

The Falcon

High up in the fresh dawn
The golden-eyed falcon
Wheels to and fro on the wind…

I worship only one
While you worship a hundred
For you any face will do.

The Telegraph Pole

On the barren hill
The telegraph pole
Hums continuously in the wind.

The orphan hermit,
The faithful goatherd boy
Taps the slender post with a flint,
Listening for the profound
Secret melody
That travels the wood he strikes.

And he remembers when his mother
Came to Nuoro: it was in fierce July;
Under the beating sun the bells of the big church
Were ringing, and inside, the organ
Groaned in response.

Outside a crowd in black,
And howls and sobs, and the wailing
Of his mother, and his father condemned to the earth.

His bitter heart lurches. He does not cry:
Sardinians should never cry.

The Eagle

From the sky the eagle plunges
On the flock, to snatch
The most beautiful lamb…

I can see a hundred of them,
But you are the delight
Of my soul, my dove!

The Lamp

I will feed my copper lamp for you
With olive oil, and in its absence strive
To keep the lamp lit with sap:
I will always keep this flame alive.

If I have no sap, I will wander
Under sun and in the snow
To collect seeds to crush to resin
From where the acrid bushes grow.

And if I have no more to burn
I’ll pull up bushes from the mud,
And feed your lamp instead with fuel
Taken from my heart, its living blood.

And if I have no pure blood left
Having already suffered in the extreme
Then I’ll feed your lamp with an infinite cry:
The rotting vegetation of my scream.


Sebastiano Satta

Sebastiano Satta (1867-1914) was a lawyer, socialist, and Nuoro poet who advocated in his working life for the island’s poorer classes, while his poetry (such as Versi Ribelli and Canti Barbaricini) celebrated the country, especially the wildness of Le Barbagie.

James Scudamore and Ravi Shankar

James Scudamore is the author of the novels Wreaking, Heliopolis, and The Amnesia Clinic. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award and been nominated for the Costa First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the Man Booker Prize.


Ravi Shankar’s twelfth book, The Golden Shovel: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, edited with Peter Kahn and Patricia Smith, was published in February 2017 by University of Arkansas Press. A Pushcart Prize-winning poet, he founded the international online journal for the arts, Drunken Boat, and teaches and performs around the world.

English translation copyright (c) James Scudamore and Ravi Shankar, 2017.