The Funeral of Bobò


Bobò is dead, but don’t take off your hat.
No gesture we could make will help us bear it.
Why mount a butterfly upon the spit
Of the Admiralty tower? We’d only tear it.
On every side, no matter where you glance,
Are squares of windows. As for “What happened?”—well,
Open an empty can by way of answer
And say, “Just that, as near as one can tell.”
Bobo is dead. Wednesday is almost over.
On streets which offer you no place to go,
Such whiteness lies. Only the night river,
With its black water, does not wear the snow.


Bobò is dead; there’s sadness in this line.
O window-squares, O arches’ semicircles,
And such fierce frost that if one’s to be slain,
Let blazing firearms do the dirty-work.
Farewell, Bobò, my beautiful and sweet.
These tear-drops dot the page like holes in cheese.
We are too weak to follow you, and yet
To take a stand exceeds our energies.
Your image, as I here and now predict,
Whether in crackling cold or waves of heat,
Shall never dwindle—quite the reverse, in fact—
In Rossi’s matchless, long, and tapering street.


Bobò is dead. Something I might convey
Slips from my grasp, as bath-soap sometimes does.
Today, within a dream, I seemed to lie
Upon my bed. And there, in fact, I was.
Tear off a page, but read the date aright:
It’s with a zero that our woes commence.
Without her, dreams suggest the waking state,
And squares of air push through the window-vents.
Bobò is dead. One feels an impulse, with
Half-parted lips, to murmur, “Why? What for?”
It’s emptiness, no doubt, which follows death.
That’s likelier than Hell—and worse, what’s more.


You were all things, Bobò. But your decease
Has changed you. You are nothing; you are not;
Or rather, you are a clot of emptiness—
Which also, come to think of it, is a lot.
Bobò is dead. To these round eyes, the view
Of the bare horizon-line is like a knife.
But neither Kiki nor Zazà, Bobò,
Will ever take your place. Not on your life.
Now Thursday. I believe in emptiness.
There, it’s like Hell, but shittier, I’ve heard.
And the new Dante, pregnant with his message,
Bends to the empty page and writes a word.

Translated by Richard Wilbur