DARK ROOM

(translated by E. di Pasquale)

Bordighera Press, 2011
ISBN 978-1-59954-021-4


www.bordigherapress.org


for my father and my mother

 

“For you, it’s nothing but an
unimportant photo, one of
thousands of manifestations of
something ordinary; it cannot in fact
be the visible object
of a science; it cannot establish
an objectivity, in the positive sense
of the term; on the contrary, it
could interest your
studium: epoch, clothes,
photo-geniality, but for you,
in itself, there would not
be any wound.”
 

R. Barthes, The bright room

 

Perhaps because
in the box of photos
by agreement
the scream is mute and
the flow is blocked
in the suspended
evolution in front and back.
All has already happened
with minimal detachment,
the valued and the damaged
placed under glass.
The living are dead:
caught in absence
of statute, in the act
of descending without ports
but with their partings
and its arrivals.
Living dead.

 

“The historical element, in things, is
 the expression of past suffering”
— T.W. adorno, Minima moralia
“Beyond love, beyond hate, beyond death,
that which interests us resists”

F. Nietzsche, So Spoke Zarathustra

 

the shadow of the face
the reflected image
the wave that follows
the imprint ending up
under the glass…
the projection of a
life that precedes it
by remaining behind
the cipher given
and lost, mysteriously,
of being on
horseback, inside and
out: the ego dominated
by an absolute
and unconcerned within…
the traces of a
discourse lost within
itself, fallen
on the slope of
thunderstruck time

 

*
The object that is
offered to the lens
rushed and detached.
Put to death,
nevertheless, suspended there
for a designed,
indefinite time, an absurdity,
in its being outstretched.
The missed action.

 

1
(The Charleston
flowers of paillette
and fringe of beads
over naked legs.
The décolleté slippers
with ribbon.
one hand on the side
and the other holding
the hair behind the neck.
The lips tight,
heart-shaped.
signed, below, at the margin:
Wanda of Love.
The 2 of 7 of ‘38.)

Curtain raising soubrette
of lowest order
theaters
more attentive to her twenties’
full-bodied form
than to art.

For the rest, satisfied
in her well-liked
body. “I have given
and loved much,
but I have also had much.”

One who has been
beyond the wrongs
and betrayals paid
on the skin, happy
in her clothes and
worn-out. With regret
that each thing, encounter
takes away a gram
filing each day
digging, like water,
the surrounding emptiness.

 

2
(Already dressed
in black, her look
dignified, leans over
takes the child
by the hand, who
sideways, in a white
cloak with a strange
clock-like collar,
tiptoes and
asks, with a contrary
look, to be
left alone.)

Having made herself
daughter of her son,
she is heavy on his arm
now. she entwines him.
Turned little again
bony and wan,
yet deferring
to him who has been
the beloved fruit,
the field and object
of a relentless
and solitary life.

She who gave
herself to work,
enthralled
to her own needs.
Having become mistress
and bloodsucker: the ivy
that fenced him and
consumed him.

Wrinkle after wrinkle
shut-in, dried up,
shriveled.

 

3
(In the perforated organza
dress, she
poses on a
small sofa.
An arm is
let go
almost falling.
Holds her chin
with her hand.
Under her bangs,
fixes her black eyes
far away.)

Quickly aged
by her job,
on a chair in the shadows
of the room,
wearing her hat
all day,
she sang low, lost
in her song,
the same refrain
“The airborne falconet
falls on earth
in one instant.”

Star, splendor, comet,
silver arrow.
even the luminous
trail…
it’s all spent.

 

4
(Head-and-shoulders,
in pair:
he with the felt
hat and a small lined
scarf of brown silk
tight on the neck,
she a nightgown
with bat-like stripes
below the chin.
United, yes, for distraction.
The look, each
their own way.
It can be seen
that the wind was blowing.)

She did not want to,
but my grandfather in accord
with her family
prepared the papers
and married her,
Christmas eve
of 1918.
she always did,
in spite of her wishes, what
was asked of her.

She was, in life,
what she did not want to be:
servant and betrayed
wife. Endured the fact
that her husband
had two separate houses
and that he maintained them
with his work.
She had nothing or
little of what she
dreamed of.
And even that decorum
she had hoped for
was kept from her.

Always and wherever
she went, finger
on the maps,
hunting for treasure.
despite the part
that, however, is missing
from the endless human dream.

 

*
The small pieces
of paper, loosened up
from the spent cone,
encircle
give again tone and objects
call connect with each other
assume the color
of thought
they become places
and times always more
distinct, in which
shapes
find volume, expand
scent the secret
virtues, the atmospheres,
the essences of a
succulent silence
net escort store
of images and flavours.

 

5
(On file on the
narrow wharf
of embarkation:
the little girl with designs
on the sweater, her
mother with erect corselet,
the father ahead
of all others, on the
table leaning
to the sea that dazzles them
at evening’s start.
And behind, anchored
appears the sail
of the crest of Savoy.)

He, monarchist
in a socialist home,
was the family’s
black sheep.
His wife, dressmaker,
pressured him, telling him

He would have
won more respect.
He, who has been
soldier, and then fascist
from day one.
With a group of friends
kept busy, to overcome
boredom, dividing
Europe on the map.

Killed with the others
on the bank of the river,
one early morning.
Dug out, from inside the basket
with goose feathers,
after the steps of the
daughter as she plays in the
tunnel of the cellar
having descended and climbed
up to the ruin.

 

6
(Standing,
with the hand on the arm
of a wooden
sofa.
A large beret
from which emerge crown-like
the hair, over a heavy
dress
with gown and folds
and frock-coat
with the neck
and wrists of velvet.
In the background,
a brocade large-canvas cloth
held by a loose
ribbon,
behind the head.
The date is noted:
1.4 of `l8.)

For her, it remained
the most lovely period
of her life,
that in which,
girl from the mountain
town,
she came down to be
a domestic
in a middle class house
in Florence.

She liked the garden paths
at the strolling hour
and the small umbrellas
open in the sun
and the carriages still
on the side of the street.
And, on Sunday,
dress festively
to cut a
fine figure.

She convinced herself that
only there, truly,
they cared for her
and says that since then
she had fear,
and no longer had
expectations
of what waited for her.

7
(Almost bald
a round face
marked by two mustache bars
thick and dark.
In the fustian
jacket,
with the stripe
of black velvet
on the lapel.
My father’s father.)

This man that I
never knew
and on whom
my life depends.
Missing, at fault
— I believed — more
or less,
the appointment.

From him I knew with difficulty
that, remaining widowed,
he had remarried
to disrespect his son
and that, hit by thrombosis,
he remained in bed
for years and then died.

For me a child
he had become
i don’t know why,
the concrete image
of a thought, after all,
not even so strange:
the fault of the immense
disorder of the world.

 

8
(The beret,
the uniform with the square
neck and a short
white ribbon
under the arm.
On the miniature
ship,
ready to sail
with the cardboard prow
from its port.)

Today, suddenly, if
he lets himself go,
they say, it is because
he gets sick:
the collapse from pressure.
or, even worse,
that he does it
because he is obsessed.

He knows it is
a feeling.
Within him, when
he thinks about it, that life
has always already gone by
and that the game can no longer
be played.
Every other chance
missed, lost,
now ended.

But coming short
is fruit of
the painful feeling:
that he was
tricked and robbed,
of all, of each thing.

 

*
The presence wiped out:
the idea of an
inanimate thing
brought to the point
of becoming definite
essence, meanwhile, even with
a face opaque
and without life. an evident
sign from the tear
on the decorous picture
of the insurmountable distance
of the jump and of the trespass
in the scanning function
of the present.

 

9
(The child leaning
on the knees of
his father, who intently
moves the knob
and points silently. With the
mother looking, lost
and stretched over the radio.
In the golden circle
of the living room.)

One can say
that i was born
and then grew,
along the way brought up
in the shadow of decorum.

Disposed to be thankful
for the little i had but secure,
content but not
too much. Favorable
yet hostile
to any revolt,
brought up to conjugate
in total refusal and sense
of respect.

Oh, the loved
reflex, from the never
clear-cut edge,
trickles in excess…
the summit of blunder
on the object.

 

10
(With the pointed helmet
and the mantle,
on the fake horse.
Against the dark
background
of a forest.
One hand on the side
and the other holding
the sword, between
the head and shoulder.
Laughs with someone
before him, who – one
supposes – accompanies him.
In ink, on the white
part of the box, the date:
may of 1908.)

Departed, for
North Germany,
to work in a factory.
He had fun, despite
the ten or more hours
a day. In the end,
always better
than staying home.

Liked by the
owner’s daughter,
he understood, suddenly, that
he could settle down.

“And mother… and
I, then. What would have
happened to us?”
My desperate question
to grandfather, who
only god knows why
he resurfaced that
memory.
“But…she had the
brain of a she-horse.”

 

11
(I, at six,
I believe. distracted, but
not much, by the game
on the small table with the
alphabet blocks.
Despite the precarious
state of the chair,
immersed there anyway
putting together crossings
on the square.)

The word, for me,
came from far away.
An a priori, almost,
I sensed it. a stimulant.
in a process in
some way inverse.
In giving it
a reality that the more touched
and held it was, the more it
slipped away, insubstantial
to the five senses.

With the effect of being
against a prominent
body and, in naming
it, quickly seizing it.

 

12
(Sitting, without
clothes, sitting
on the enclosed wall,
insolently
pressing a leaf of grass
between the lips.
The chin lifted,
the eyes
turned to something
or someone
nearby.
A hand propped
on the knee.
The age is recorded:
twenty-three years.)

Only confinement, with difficulty,
saved him from death.
But he had turned strange
and did not want to go out.
Like a child.

At home, he went
in search of accomplishing feats
and not hold a balance
with the times. Driven
to trace the footsteps of the cat
each moment.

 

*
…a reality
reassembled, rendered
logical and tidy
removed from the
uncontrolled flux
of life, careful
with his step and
slipping on the long
and narrow corridor,
in the neck of the funnel
which gathered him
shattered
a being of his own
risen by magic
complete and, in the space
of an instant,
intact and found.

 

13
(On the boardwalk
in full summer.
The sparkling
chemisier and
a small, white purse.
Turns around and speaks.
I look at her as she
looks at me,
and she is happy.)

My mother, loved,
and, to love her,
kept at a distance.
Silent and detached
on every level,
felt overflowing
and paid in installments.

Seen in stages
of a life of mine
autonomous and distant.
Tied to the pangs
of the wait,
without hold, between
us, of a discourse.

The other end
of a string that pulls me,
the force of a journey
without exit.

 

14
(Eyes like pins
in the narrow gallery
between the mind, over
the throat and chin,
and a hat with
an ornate
net visor.
In the photo, mischievous and
sought after, and
written,
under,
even the signature
with a clean and
elegant handwriting.)

There was nothing
she said
she could not do.
Never still
holding her hands.
Without pause. “Yes,
still my…”
her argument:
the house and kitchen.

Today, stuck
all day
on an armchair
in front of the window,
she wants to tie
the she-dog
on the back
of the same prison.

Then and now,
however, in a cheap thing
that crumbles and slides
away, a gushing cascade,
whatever it may be.

 

15
(The hair thrown over
the shoulders,
the eyes
small and close
and a hand
holding the throat.
In a dress
a pois. a little
over twenty years old.)

Compelled by the strange
invitation at the table
of forbidden play,
nevertheless distracted
because of the shuttling
in the nearby room,
the face red, in a rush
to get the underpants
hanging with the clothes,
over the fire.
Whispers, meanwhile,
and chocked screams
beyond the door.

Seized and gnawed from
jealousy, in vengeance
attacking
her to scratch her,
wrathful, I can’t
do more. But for
mother, no… for a deal
understood
between us, not even
a word. She
let me, if she were
alone, slide
through her legs while
she ironed and there search her
in her short gown.

 

16
(With the apron
that seems a small tent
hanging from the neck,
the hand extended for a salute
and a foot firmly set,
with a self-assured demeanor,
on the basket.
seen from a profile,
the scene, in these
remains of a postcard.)

Furtive, the fat nuns
ran on, far away,
without pause,
entering existing in chorus
from doors insurmountable
to us along the celestial
corridors and they withdrew,
with vigor, in their black
clothes, in pieces,
their pink flesh.

 

*
Is that past
perhaps dead?
or is it hiding outside
its field,
in a still and detached
object…
The piece of cake
soaked in the
cup, that
taste found once again
suddenly,
held and startled
stopped and once again descended
into that which casually
can be evoked
by an image
which by reflex
makes it imagined
in the whirl of the marks
displaced on the outline.

 

17
(A vest,
custom made
over pants
that I have fun
lowering
laughing at the goal.
With the belt
again tight
over the clothes.
June of ’54
at the age of five.)

Every morning,
at our arrival,
the usual battle
For the small tiles
from the yard. given
as concession by us
amateur tyrants
to color with
pieces of brick,
to rows of the aspiring.

Administered then
for those three little girls
as agreed upon, and certainly
an aspiration not chosen
from a sense of guilt,
to have to touch
taken each one in a rush
behind the bushes
of the small wall. Even
if there was little flesh
between the legs
and the chest unripe.

 

18
(The cigarette
in hand
with the arm folded
over the chest, among
other people,
listens to me
as i almost vine
myself to him.
Smiling, although
even distant.
The coat of velvet
over a sweater
that is worn out and short.)

His speaking
not just of god
but of destiny,
I caught…
in those spots
on the skin
in the pungent breath
in the limp cloth
of the accommodating,
of the breech of rules and of the
tear in the throat.

It hit me, at the age of six,
for the first time,
the idea of the unstoppable
decline, the rushing
of everything to the point of death.

 

19
(A bright
smock, lined
socks and sandals
with holes. My
father attentive, and
worried, fierce
but like a stuffed dog.
Signed, under,
the account and, on the side,
the occasion:
the fourth birthday.
October twenty-eight.)

I, having become, through
inversion, the father
of my father, in
this obstructed
image, remaining
in the state of the past.

Reversed
the connection
of greatness,
in a point of view
that nevertheless remains
equivalent.

Ready, and content,
to be taken by the hand
and to speak to him of the world
and of life,
guiding him far away.

 

20
(The small loud
suit, the lace
tight, with all
the richness
under the chest
and the shoulders ornate
with glass beads.
And i who drag, with
air of exhaustion,
the little girl
by the arm.)

Summer, after dinner,
shut in the
balcony on the ground floor.
if I did not run away
I at times climbed
on Marcellina.
Tasty morsel, fresh
peach pulp and ripe fruit.
Laid out among
the vases of geraniums.

Or, alert and in the dark
down in the cellar
on the fruit basket boxes,
she liked to hold in her hands
what was hanging down.
To me, just the taste
of taking it.
And the idea that it was unfair,
for me, and disadvantageous
that I did not have
the thing.

 

*
The climax, the root,
yes, of the people:
the complex dimension,
an extension of the object
as symbol and function
of the retaining quality, of lasting.
The full point
that without terms
contains the unlimited
sense in which
by convention
the outburst and of action
coincide.

 

21
(I who stare
in front of me.
And I wear an apron
with a belt
and knee-high socks of the
same dark color.
The arms, along the
sides. But not
extended, not at all, instead
contracted, as
who goes there.)

A feeling of
being a bit lost
from bad luck and stupor
had taken over me
at the discovery
that one never
finds the position
he deserves
and is incapable
of staying at a standard.

And it is over, for me,
in suspense, the fact
that living is like
discovering something
interdicted
and forbidden,
that all is born
and grows hidden,
that it happens, in other words,
yes, in fear.

 

22
(I have a large
sweater that covers
the other clothes.
Leather sandals.
held by the hand
on the railing,
from the bridge I stare at the sea
and a boat that
goes by in front.
I am seven years old.)

Here it is,
loose in the wind,
the sail of infancy
on the horizon.
It buckles uncertain here and there
restarts its flight
and shoots out far.

My course seemed
carved
and indubitable, in
some open way.
Dreams, projects and plans
all, the most strange,
quick and darting
over the swells.

If I look back, now,
I see myself somewhat drowning
in the emptiness, that, like
glass, has placed itself
between the me of now and the
more distant me.
For as much as is revealed
in many places and
aspects,
as much is hidden.

 

23
(My mother laughs
turning her face,
and slightly moves
her wavy hair
on her back.
The thin youngster,
lifting his vision beyond her,
his look serious,
is stuck in an
almost-smile.
In the tepid,
puzzling evening.)

My mother led her
first lover
to the river’s brushes
and her jealous brother
spying their steps
ran after them
throwing stones.

It happened in the morning
during training
before leaving
for the front.
And to her went, with
the echo of glory,
what little among the remains
was found.

Shedding the memories,
I always thought
of what was and what
might not have been,
the fate where each story
is tied.

 

24
(My father,
very young, together
with his friends
who intuitively
are in front.
They joke,
and he answers
miming
sexual gestures.)

Through forms of
old and new events,
in a rebuilt
office,
he met my mother
who was still a girl then.
and so began the story
I care for.

He too was young
and learned events
and pieces of love.
Still, among us
with a mute pact
we feign to ignore
that one is trying
what the other
has already done.

 

*
Shapes and objects, on the
track of the concrete,
that design the other
face of the divided
present, evanescent and
unraveled: that
of the discourse
made logical part
of an immensity, mirror
or portrait of a recast
value, quick to
expire …alphabet,
even of the abyss,
beyond feeling.

 

25
(Shirt and
thin tie under
a jacket.
Hands behind
the back, leaning
with the shoulder over
the small wall of the terrace.
The expression somewhat
perplexed, between being
satisfied
and pouting.
even the year is
listed: `57.)

Seeing myself
in this photo
I did not ask, then,
what would have been.
I was sure
that as i moved on,
whatever happened,
I would
yet see myself.

The strange thing is that
I did not feel
I existed at all, but
frozen.
As if caught and fixed
in that pose
against the wall.
I was far away from myself
and, in part, excluded
from any possible future.

 

26
(My sister,
a few days old,
wrapped in an apron
that envelops her.
I hold her, perplexed,
by a finger.
almost lost.
The same ears, same eyes
and same nose and mouth.
I am five years old.)

Then, the hour
one does not even fear strikes.
Having been together:
discoveries and games
in the same clothes…
and reach the point
of being out of sight.

Rarely
seeing each other, now,
with no more to say.
Here and there
from a wall,
even on top.
each one takes
a role, the part
of a life that
was common at first
and now distant, who knows
for what events.

The darkness of the
diverging lines
from a dot
on the maps
of infinity.

 

27
(About me, who come
to me more big
and more distant,
the image that
advances from the mirror
of an old cabinet,
in the door that
opens slowly.
With one stiff hand,
perhaps
defensively and the other
grabbing the sweater tightly
in the act of lifting it
and covering the face.)

It’s that I remained
unknown, in the
sense of the portrait
and of the surrounding
that reflected itself there.
Distracted
by my own self
in appearing to myself
suddenly more precise
lost in sealed
dots of the object.

And, today, I still
catch myself divided
from not seeing
what I think I am,
neither young nor old
not knowing if I am beautiful or ugly.
I am aware of how clumsy i am
or else I disappear
from about everything.

 

28
(My mother
as she throws
back her head
on the silk
shirt, smiling.
In a black
hat. Light
dress, fantasy.
With one hand
tight over her throat.
Full of life,
ardent.
in her twenties.)

But I do not recognize her.
I look at her but I do not
see her: the manner
is not familiar to me.
As when I went through
her purse,
among the powder box
the mirror and the nail life.

If she lived
and were already happy…
while I was not there,
did not exist
not even as breath
or imprint or emptiness.

 

*
The discovery that
the many minimal
and odd pieces
belong to the same
general system
made of parts
and rapports
that have in the end
a meaning, in their
total disorder.

 

29
(The parents, behind.
The father, standing,
satisfied holding
his daughter’s hand
who looks at him
sideways, under the brim
of the straw hat, one eye
attentive to the object
and the other hand straight
smoothing out the folds
of her dress.
The mother is leaning:
she lifts the little boy,
with a paper hat made from a
newspaper and with the pail,
mounting, and well-balanced,
the rocking horse.)

Of him, of
his race,
day after day:
the store, the house,
the family.
“For the children,
Giovanna…”

Still, fate already
grabs him
by the shoulders,
the sentence signed and sealed
without appeal.

And never thinks, should he
ever have the time,
it diminishes,
and fools, the distance,
on the journey.

Dead, he,
from intestinal cancer
and dead, one year now,
she, from a brain
tumor.
The younger boy already
gone nuts
and the daughter growing anxious
trying to figure things out
and close up the holes
of what remains,
to heal the brother’s
affliction,
paid twice for the occasion
for damage and the succeeding
ingenuity.

 

30
(All gathered,
the hands reaching
over the nose,
kneeling on the steps
to recite the orations.
With his eyes off,
though, distracted
by the intentions of
wanting to appear in the photo.)

Discovered by chance
by my mother
stretched on the bed,
the pockets of the pants
filled with naked women
yummy shapes
cut out from the newspaper.

Threatened with dark
punishment, with death
and chains.
Still, despite
the fears, drawn-in
and attracted
by the logic as to why
lovely things
have to be evil.

Descends, climbs
falls into the void
and it is
useless.

 

31
(The dark toothbrush
mustache
he poses wearing
the cavalry uniform.
Self-assured
but distracted,
he leans with his
hand between the column
and the wall.)

Grandfather refused
to join the fascist
party and, at night,
they beat him up.
My mother
fell in nervous exhaustion.

He had to
leave because
they would no longer
let him be.

Since then all he could do
was survive.
He had already understood
that nothing, or very little,
had changed for him.
But not enough for him
not to boast of
his past.

Hero of a time
a bit ancient,
in exchange of an idea
of freedom, was
offended and then betrayed.
Analphabet, on Sundays,
he bought the communist
newspaper Unità.

 

32
(The small bundle
abandoned among
the ribbons and the bows,
in the basket, wrapped
in white flowers.
Stamped, below,
with the dates
a nine-syllable line: “Knew
nothing of life.”)

Inside the satchel
of waters there was
adrift a wreak.
Did not bring his own thoughts,
pleasures and anxiety
of others.

Fish of a minimal sea
taken out of the vase,
from full shadow
he was detached
and, even for a few hours,
denounced to the law
and the list of men
who had been.

His status was only
arrangement of failed
functions. Someone
principled and
never finished.

 

*
…a sign
the datum, but not
memory or nostalgia,
of what has been.
Loved or not loved.
however, unknown.
Totally lost,
fallen inside
his end in
that same
fixation
before perishing.

 

 

 

 

 


  Paolo Ruffilli Mail: paolo.ruffilli@alice.it