“Partisans” by Primo Levi – on the Anniversary of the “Partisans Uprising” in Italy, 25 April 1945
Where have you gone, you the partisans of every valley,
Tarzan, Riccio, Sparviero, Saetta, Ulisse?
Many sleep now in seemly graves.
The hair of those who remain has gone white,
and they tell their children’s children
stories of how, in that far-off time of utter certainty,
they stood firm against the German assault.
There, yes, where the chairlift has gone in.
Some are sellers and buyers of land,
others nibble away at their old-age pensions
or draw together like purse strings in the local bars.
On your feet, old timers: there is no end to our service.
Let us meet again. Let us return to the mountains,
slow and gasping for breath, our knees unforgiving,
feeling each of our winters in our backs.
The path will be steep and arduous for us,
our cots will be hard, and no less so the bread we eat.
We will gaze upon one another, no recognition in our faces
suspicious, petulant, and full of shadow.
As we once did, we will stand sentinel
to ensure no enemy can surprise us at dawn.
But what enemy? We are each the enemy of the other.
Each of us is riven by internal borders.
The right hand is the enemy of the left.
On your feet, old timers, enemies of your very selves:
For us, the war goes on.