William Matthews, “Grief”

Ohio-born poet William Matthews’s “Grief” (from the 1995 collection Time and Money) originally appeared in the November 29, 1993, issue of the New Yorker, with the title “Poem Ending With a Line From Dante” (accessible in the New Yorker archives, sign in required). In both versions, the poem ends with a translation of Inferno 24.151. Below is the version from Time and Money, with an image of the original publication in the New Yorker.

“Grief”

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E detto l’ho perché doler ti debbia!
Inferno, xxiv, 151

Snow coming in parallel to the street,
a cab spinning its tires (a rising whine
like a domestic argument, and then
the words get said that never get forgot),

slush and backed-up runoff waters at each
corner, clogged buses smelling of wet wool . . .
The acrid anger of the homeless swells
like wet rice. This slop is where I live, bitch,

a sogged panhandler shrieks to whom it may
concern. But none of us slows down for scorn;
there’s someone’s misery in all we earn.
But like a bur in a dog’s coat his rage

has borrowed legs. We bring it home. It lives
like kin among the angers of the house,
and leaves the same sharp zinc taste in the mouth:
And I have told you this to make you grieve.

Dante’s Inferno in Cleveland (the Indians’ baseball stadium)

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Contributed by Eric Goldwyn (Bowdoin, ’02)

Dante in Cleveland, OH

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“Enjoy Michelin- Starred Chef Dante Boccuzzi’s signature restaurant DANTE, one of Cleveland’s premier dining destinations.”    —Restaurant Dante