Four Petrarch Sonnets


1 / 251

Gli occhi di ch’ io parlai sì caldamente

I can’t stop thinking about her
death in very detailed physical terms
& how human attributes become stuff
to grow flowers vegetables & trees in

I mean what about the eyes & fingers
the blonde luminosity of her hair
the wonderful components of her voice
& face which sent me further off the rails

& I still mooch about with this disused
equipment wasting what’s left of my life
by meditating endlessly on death

the time for making up love songs has gone
along with my source of inspiration
& if I sing again I’ll sing the blues


2 / 255

I’ mi soglio accusare ed or mi scuso

from guilt to exculpation in a line
thus enabling us to get on the bus
& continue with our zig-zag journey
round the recycling centres of Norfolk

well you have to be in it to win it
but I was really out of it for years
my brain cells baked & whirled around by fate
turned into sticky candy-floss by love

in spite of all those catastrophic years
I’d still recommend eschewing hindsight
which always seems to end up up itself

it’s a sin to regret a grand passion
& if I had to do it all over
again I would do it all over her


3 / 257

Quand’ io mi volgo indietro a mirar gli anni

hard to think through all these years of water
flowing under my bridges hurrying
all those plans & passions to a sea
to rock & settle & sleep with fishes

all those years of water rotting the posts
rusting the hinges & eroding stone
vomiting the drain up over the lawn
supporting all these little brains in jars

I wake in a cold sweat of exposure
the caravan is trembling in the wind
oh the deadwood stage is rolling over

the plains of mind out of time a passing
ice-cream van backfires still creaking out oh
I do like to be beside the seaside


4 / 258

Ov’ è la fronte, che con picciol cenno

her slightest twitch would set off my alarm
as would a flash from her perilous eyes
which often lured me onto pointy rocks
& the usual metaphorical snags

the edges of the iris & black holes
became an ever-expanding focus
for my absent thoughts & meditation
riding the waves around omega point

among the multitudes we rode the rock
through heartstopping arcs in heartstopping arcs
we fold & send these pleats of light & time

curves around the gravities of singing
echoes organising air & vision
into life & dance beyond the living







[Peter Hughes is a poet, painter and the editor of Oystercatcher Press. His books include Nistanimera, The Summer of Agios Dimitrios and Allotment Architecture. His Selected Poems came out from Shearsman in 2013. This co-incided with the publication, by the same press, of ‘An intuition of the particular’: some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes, edited by Ian Brinton. Hughes’ versions of Petrarch’s sonnets have been appearing in magazines and pamphlets for some years now. In 2015 the complete set will be published by Reality Street.

John Hall has written of Hughes’s work: ‘...a mind in evidence in the poems that can constantly surprise itself in the turns of speech, that can dance in the syllables and still have world and experience in its sights.’

Tony Fraser has described Peter Hughes as ‘one of the U.K.’s most interesting and unclassifiable poets’.]

Copyright © 2014 by Peter Hughes, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.