Preface to Casanova’s Histoire de ma vie
A member of the universe, I speak to the air
though often I imagine a woman there,
resplendent in a silk gown, slender arms bent
in reproach. Ivory or cream hands. The scent
of lavender or powder. And yellow plaited hair
gathered to a soft knot on the crown where
it is trimmed with a white feather, a bit of lace
or threads of sun. I never see her face.
Alone now, I write my story. It’s unwise
but I need something to occupy me—thighs
and breasts and throats for the younger man
I once was. Why deny myself? I began
in pleasure and so continue. I speak to the air,
remember her finger-smoothed coin-gold hair.
“A member of the universe, I speak to the air” is taken from the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova, History of My Life, translated from the French by Willard R. Trask.
Editor’s Note: Interestingly, this sonnet pivots twice—once at the end of the first octave and once at the end of the sestet. The two moments of reflection, “I never see her face.” and “remember her finger-smoothed coin-gold hair.” remind the reader that the speaker is not simply imagining himself alone, but with another person. Does this imply his yearning for connection? Or is it simply pleasure he seeks?