LIKE IT OR NOT
(translated by Ruth Feldman & James Laughlin)
Bordighera Press, 2006
ISBN 1-884418-75-7

(www.bordigherapress.org

 

 

“ The void is a fabric painted with words. The words dye
the void and, as on silk, they imprint colors and elegant
shapes  and, covering it again in this way, they become
fixed little by little, until they remain , they alone, indelible.”

              -Yukio Mishima

 

“Through the very fact that we speak, each thing is not
what it is. The symbol is the murderer of the thing.”

              -Jacques Lacan

 

 

The word, for me,
came from far away .
I felt it to be almost
an a priori. A  stimulant .
By a process in
some way inverse.
In giving it by comparison
a reality that, instead,
the more it was touched and grasped,
the more it fled
insubstantial
from the five senses.
With the effect of being
hurled against a body,
pronounced, and then,
in the pronouncing, suddenly
grasped again.

 

 

MALARIA

 

“Which is dearer, the name or the body ?”

        -Lao-Tzu

“ The  highest degree of presence is absence.”

        -Walter Benjamin

 

 

“It’s too easy
to do what pleases
and what we want.”

The small tin box
is round , and rolls
on side against the other.
You can smell it,
if empty, and lick the shell
when the licorice is gone.

Apple orange plum
Apple orange plum

…where do dreams spring from
clothes and profiles
to monster, to madness :
milkshakes and puzzles
whose  pieces don’t fit right,
like birds, their colors bright,
or huddledbats
that suddenly break off
the ink-blue tree.

“It has to be a plot
grownups  dream up
out of  jealousy or spite.”

From the impregnable tower
of one’s own castle
from which everything else is kept
under strict control .
A kingdom that small
but safe and quite secure,
at least as long as we make sure,
the door is locked.

( Balancing undressed
on the bathtub edge,
he stares and seeks
the form, into the mirror,
or only a reason
for the fire
of so much desire.)

judge your stride and easy stand
throw the stone with steady hand
stop now  or go to a far-off land

“My mother says I can
take off the clothes.”
“Mine says not more than
my pants and undershirt.”

(To see oneself and to be seen.
To lay it bare.
To hold it up, if it needs to be held.
But he believes inside himself
there must be
something else.)

Red. The red of fever,
of blood. Into the fire.
Of nails and lips.
Of godless people.
Of capes and flags.

Aboard the submarine, “Me”,
course set for the sea.
“Clear the deck,
secure the hatch.
Dive, dive fast.”
The limited space
sackful of smells
shadow  of the bed.

“…nest, table, heart
roof, soma, dwarf.”

Again. Precise the dry old
rigmarole, word by word
in all its whole. Mirror
portrait, analogy and proof
that the thing  is there :
it always will be,
always has been,  
not everywhere
and as may be. Dictation.

 

…in the Book of
Famous Books,
in the encyclopedia.

“It has the colors
of fire, of snow
and grass.”

“Come on, the game of  forfeit is this :
to say, to do, or maybe kiss.”

(Doing it again he seems
to like it more than before.
But he has the feeling that
if he stays so thin as a pin
it night be for this sin.)

“You’ll see :
the faster you go,
the better it will be.”

…that a word
has sex  and  person  (male
if it ends with  a!). But
harder to conceive
the state of want,
of absence, in short
the denied presence
in a concept not even
rejected, inconceivable,
of nothingness,  and the wonder
to pronounce it.

“Where is it hers?
What is it made of ?”

(For him, only the joy
of being held. And
then the thought
that it’s not fair
and not so much for her
after all, if she
doesn’t have the thing.)

“You’ll find it out
when you grow up.”

Glimpsed in secret and said
in private, whispers
in the dark, indefinite
shapes and never clear,
clues to signals seized
in haste and fury
spelled, in fear
of getting found out
before laying bare
square inches
of crevices and down.

Peter Piper picked a peck
Of pickled pepper…

Fear that a glass may shatter,
salt scatter,
boiling water overflow
a gypsy enter home
the bottle of oil fall,
his health fail.
Fear of staying in the dark,
finding a murdered in his home,
losing an eye on a sharp spike,
not passing the exam  as he’d like,
falling into a ravine,
ending by drowning in a lake,
being crushed to a mush.

“…you said it.
Already if you thought it
in little amount,
that it hasn’t been
doesn’t count.”

“Will you join us, then?
Come on, let’s talk dirty.”
“We have to say
all nasty words.”

Said and looked up
in the dictionary.
Accepted, therefore, shown
not totally unknown.
And the others, synonyms, more gray
with no features of their own
at least set down.

“This is the way they lie
on top, one of the other.”

(Sprawled on the bed,
rehearsing the part with the pillow.
Feverish, panting to do it right,
kissing and clutching it tight.)

One looking-glass
In front of another small,
moving it up and down
to check, back and fro
which is the new effect
of a different view.

“You shouldn’t run around
with those good-for-nothings.”

It may be true:
a trap for you
to tempt into sin
and make you fall in,
then caught  in the snare,
doomed forever
among shrieks and cries
down in a lake, a ditch,
deep in a fire of pitch.

“What is confessed is taken away,
resolved. You’re free
once you’re absolved.”

(Suddenly on a whim,
the idea torments him
that he doesn’t , for sure,
match the idea of purity
that he was raised with.)

…that he’ll blurt out
a blasphemy without
meaning to, that
it might be  forming in his mind
like a bomb primed
to go off any time.

Sure, whoever has gone
to seven first-Fridays of the month
though living not right,
prayers and litanies every night,
he will be saved
no matter what he has done
or keeps doing still.

“Meanwhile, God sees you ,
of course, everywhere.”

(He points there
before he is aware
by instinct is drawn
and sucked, meanwhile, his hand
to her convexity
without grip.)

“I’m going to tell your mother
you keep felling me up.”

…let it happen then
and doesn’t matter how,
let all restraint
be lifted, yes, at last
and, whatever the cost,
let what will be , be.
In spite of  the thought
of disgust, even in the stink,
in the seat, in the blood.

“Don’t worry ,
she likes it too.”
 
To be done quickly
in the dark, behind
the room’s closed doors,
so no one can know or see,
in secret, stealthily,
to someone’s detriment
a risk, a offense
what’s more a shame,
profaning as you must
the trust.

…it is, it proves to be
inconsistent,
the more it’s claimed,
ordered, required,
against the standing
firm and deaf, the same
imperious and urgent
of its name.

Once more repeated
out loud or in his mind
putting it down again
long lines in notebooks,
in large or small letters
cursive or block capitals,
in the Greek alphabet
in the oldest style
drawn, even chiselled:
the same name.

“You don’t do that
to a girl you like.”

That she is damned,
impure and dirty
and lost…still meant
to be a lure
to quench a tempting thirst,
for just this thing
so painfully desired.

(He dreams to lose himself,
to fall into the arms
of a woman who’s
utterly without scruples.)

“They let you do
whatever appeals to you.”

To spell it out, clasped
to another, straining
on the borders, voice almost
pitted, clipped speech
between the teeth
like under a sheath
in a desperate puff of breath:
nothing more, just…whore.

 

WAS IT TRUE GLORY ?

 

“The shape of the house is the course of a destiny.  Bunker, fort, decorous make : the typologies, together, of a war and of the court.  Prisoners and jailers spy on the world from loopholes, and they picture it to themselves in dreams. ”

        -Anonymous

“ The only truth that people accept is one presented already digested and manipulated, shrunken and adorned.”

        -Herman Hesse

 

 

 “Come on …
there’s nothing on.”

“…that’s all for today.
We wish you goodnight.”

Yes, the wonderful colors
          of video,
the pleasant random choosing,
sipping, savoring
the flavor of soft dessert.
Grasping life
          seasoned before,
pre-chewed and digested like this.
Surrendering to the game
of statues, to the neutral glossy
motion
          in which
nothing really exists any more,
at a distance
          that entertains
only for that little bit
that one is touched by it.
The same prearranged fantasy,
outside itself, hatched,
hypnotized, melted down.
The water
          is held back no longer
it’s a surge that floods, drowns,
swallows you down.

“When I was your age
I didn’t have the time
to get bored.”

The living room
is English style.
Fringes and tassels
everywhere.  Knick-knacks
on every surface, prints
of flowers and castles.

(When it comes to himself,
he likes his hands the best,
enjoys looking at them more than the rest,
pretending to be in front.
Languid and slim,
they look almost feminine to him.)

“You and all your crazy plans…
Get your act together,
decide what you
would like to do.”

Just beyond the shore
close to the surface
something comes in and out,
appears and disappears.
Leaving us in doubt
whether it exists for real
or is a trick,
an alibi, an excuse
the rest of a story
never set in motion
the rotten core
of an abortion.

“No matter what I say
I’m always wrong…”

(It may be because of his
skeptical and intolerant nature,
his laziness and levity
his narrow smartness,
maybe out of whim,
although fine qualities in him,
signs of thoughtful openness,
but he avoids talking if he can
on the edge of thoughts
behind the glow and smoke
that they evoke.)

“…he was killed
on the street, in front
of his house, by two boys
who rode off on a bike.”

“Would you believe it? How
awful!  The cowards! “
“ Everyday is like this.
Give me the dishes.”

“Hello. Who speaking ?
He’s not here. He isn’t back yet.”

(Strange…
but when he sits down to eat
if there have been no deaths,
catastrophes  or disasters,
well, he must admit
he feels let down a bit.)

“What about that money ?
Did you ask for it ? Are they going
to give it to you ?”

The table occupies
the whole dinette :
there’s barely space
for the chairs.
And close at hand
there’s a TV stand.

“See, if you get mad
it’s only your fault.”

(He realizes with pleasure
that he’s still and always will be
what he once was,
always the same : a child
who stamps his feet
and shouts : “That’s not right !”)

“You might even believe it.
But later on …you’ll be sorry.”

The sharp strokes
the sound you hear
of the alarm clock
that ticks away
the rite of washing away the dirt
in the neat border line of your room
behind closed doors
in the dark, the privacy that’s yours.

“You’re welcome. Hello .
Really…No, I got it. Your call
is no bother at all.”

The pleasure of exploding,
a moment of  abandon
after the  long suppressing,
the flight, almost, from yourself.
The fine technique
the downright art
of sneezing…

(He doesn’t actually
like kids very much.
He always pictures them in his mind
as dirty and smelly, kinds
of small monsters
who ruin everything they touch.)

“Listen, it’s tough.
Do you understand that?”

…with the echo that
gathers them,
onto the stage.
Figures in the vague,
flat ghosts
clad in plaid,  slippers
and hot-water bottles.

“Criminals. They should be
locked up for good
or put to death.”

(He killed so many
only with his thought.
He shouted : “ It serves you right,
you swine.”
He is the murderer, boasts
about it, the torturer
of his enemies.
Without losing an inch,
it would seems,
of the esteem
he lavishes on his own life.)

“…but learn
not to go too far,
so you don’t get burned.”

The bedroom’s
Chippendale,
with a chest of drawers
and small armchairs. There’s
a dressing-table
and a big wardrobe.

“What do you have in mind?
Say it, please.”

Of pleasant woods here,
only an outline, a trace
of hedges on the wallpaper.
          Held
in the limited space
inside, in the dark abyss.
Surrendered
          swollen enormity
that enfolds and kneads
turgid pulp,
          soft
cream that spreads warm stench,
humor down  from the gurgling
bundle. The fullness
that empties. Beaker
          ceiling-light
that dangles and holds fast,
yields and contracts.
Basin of soft cream
spineless octopus
          cascade.

(Maybe ‘cause when he was small
he dreamed of  assess, bellies
and big tits,
and he was good at drawing them
and popular for it.
For him they counted for what they were,
no need  of a body or a head.)

…the sides, the squares
in the kingdom, in the warp
of cage and chessboard.
Enchantment glows
on the highest wire,
on the crest of the court’s nest.
For the attention
of maids and whores.

“Like this, don’t move.
It’s only for a moment.”
“Stop it, let me go. What are you doing?
Watch out or I’ll scream.”
“You should be grateful
for what I’m teaching you.”
“Oh God. What happens
if Madam hears.”

The bathroom’s narrow,
with a mirror
on the medicine chest
and the washbasin on the bidet.
Between window
and tub,
the washing-machine
and a shoe-rack.

“Don’t think about it.  Keep
busier. That way you’ll
always have something to fall back on.”

(However, it seems to him
that women like bastards better,
and lose their heads for them only.
That the others
waiting there lonely
not even a nod,
and despite their good intentions,
count only
as last-ditch solutions.)

“Be open with us.
What’s the matter with you?
Let your family advise you.”

…yes, of those livid flashes,
that spread
like capillaries
over pale skin.

The sideboards and the hanging
shelves on the wall,
not real wood at all,
in the narrow kitchen. The sink
under the window
and the fridge that covers
a third of the door-space.

“Time passes so fast.
And everything …Hello. Ages.”

The slice of melon
almost melts in the mouth.
it’s just full, perfectly ripe.
Let it slide
on the tongue,
thinking of you meanwhile
cruelly being in command.

(He loves his idea of himself,
lives on that
and on his fantasies.
On his ghosts,
on his glory.)

“I know : for you
it doesn’t count, doesn’t mean a thing.
After all the work we’ve done
your father and I.”

( Quiet and somewhat introverted
faultless,
obsequient to every law.
He’ll answer seriously :
“My pleasure, no trouble at all.”
Elegant, yes, and quite
polite.  Always discreet
and welcomed everywhere.
And yet…far from the stage
he feels
not in a trap
more in defense
as if he wasn’t there at all.)

 

LIKE IT OR NOT

 

“You know, the first love can be the last, Mrs.  Napier . ”
“You’re wrong. No, my dear lady, that’s not the way it is.”

        -Ivy Compton-Burnett

“Only the tyrant speaks of love.”

        -Norman O. Brown

 

 

 “You finally got here.
How come ? Where have you been ?”

(And it doesn’t help him
to keep busier.
A gesture cannot fill
the void, and the name
of the absence can
hardly do it, or can only
ruffle the surface  of the shadows :
the object, meanwhile
that haunts him.)

“It’s useless, because
you don’t want to understand.”
“It’s only a mother’s love
that never ends.”

“You feel, suddenly,
like this, outside yourself.”

Motionless, under glass, naked,
the waiting broods
          dry
raw frost of parting , shell 
that hides the delicate
block-sheet that
          cracks
in the meantime. There :
no longer paralyzing.
Drop after drop, it leaks,
turns to a trickle,
          stream.
And all around, more and more,
it swells, bursts, merges,
          pours
from the cuts
of the bleeding wound.
In motion, rushing,
full to the brim,
it overflows,  uncontained,
          it spreads.

 

“She’ll say that it isn’t true,
it only seemed that way.
That she made a mistake .”

“You never stay home any more.
You’ve changed so much…”

“But why me, anyway?
Because he likes me, I hope.”

…and there are no
excuses, no real remedy.

The room is narrow
and long
with shutters
always closed.

“You really like me, then?
Tell me again.”

And yet uncertain,
he faithfully goes his way.
Stumbling in the dark,
groping through smoke and haze,
not knowing anything about
today or tomorrow.
It’s made of calls,
of cries and signals
we send each other
like life-belts.

“And you won’t get tired
of me ? Not even when…”

(He never rests, no.
He’s always there.
And demands
of both of them that they
keep voicing confirmation.)

The wall lamp’s light
is weak : the shadows
recede
one from another.

“Hug me. Come on,
hold me tight.”

To that which flows
unstable, hurls itself
onto the other side
beyond the divide
and breaks up, bursts the banks
mingles and swirls
In the same indifferent
        magma,
to what is hardly
or not at all enough in itself
for an exact state and role
        of a person,
that has neither time nor space
no history to trace,
except for a step poised
        for a brief flight,
the unshakable is opposed,
the only commitment
        the clean
certainty of something unknown,
        unseen.

feeling  that you belong
to someone else, and that
someone belongs to you
exclusively, forever.

A longing for what lasts,
can be kept at all costs,
for willed resistance
to the void.

“But meanwhile, why bother
with me ? What have I got ?
What does she see in me
that she couldn’t
find better in somebody else ?”

Books on the floor,
strewn everywhere,
and piles of notebooks threatening to fall
behind the curtain
against the wall.

“We’ll stay together forever.
And tell each other everything.”

The state of bondage :
a kind of chain by which
whether a lot
or just a little
you seek to be bound.
For which  you yearn through fear.
That is imposed, without your knowing it,
while you are undergoing it.

“Heads if he’s serious,
wants me forever.
Tails if it’s just a game
that will soon be over.”

out of the blue
a doubt
strikes you.

“You’ll see , believe me,
he’ll leave me.
It’s just a matter of time
until, finally, he’ll tire,
lose his desire.”

The bookcase
takes most of the space
in the small storeroom, forms a niche
against the window, which
is half-hidden.

(For  him they become
mythology.  The detonators
of a destiny to which,
he thinks with fear,
there doesn’t appear
to be an answer.)

“Are you making fun of me?
Well, then, how  much?”
“A lot, honestly. Even more.
Endlessly. I’m mad about you.”

In the current use
it’s gauged by the hour.
Yet, in the end, it’s given
an undetermined value,
like a treasure
measured
in light years…

and still
 I’m hiding
behind the wall
of light, fruit
of a dream.

“You’re different,
the only one in the world.”

Called upon
held onto, elusive,
enjoyed, recited
in its being everything.

“It’s no good like this, no use.
I won’t answer.”
“But if I really had
to choose…”

The old parquet of the floor
smells of polish
and creaks continually
with every step you take.

“What if they hear in there…
Please wait. I’m scared.”

 

Together. Holding each other ‘s
bodies gently, uncovered
to touch, to taste
           debased
by eyes, by hands.
A sense lost
          regained
in a slow  falling
of a weight,  letting it go
          from time
to time, it bends
surrendering to its flight.
At the bottom,
stretched out
slipping into a grip, mingling
yielding to the tight bond.

 Beauty, I know,
only you exist.

(Still, he cancels it.
Wish it weren’t
the thing of hers
he most prefers.)

“But what do you
really think of me?”

(He’s left dismayed
by the claim
he has her thoughts
in him, quails
at the idea the feeling
isn’t mutual,
that she neglects
the most absolute devotion.)

The rope door-mat
Is between the chair
and the small table’s feet,
stretching to meet
the radiator pipes.

“What’s wrong with you?
Don’t you want to?
Don’t you like it any more?”

It often happens
normally or by mistake
that every living being
in a state of maturation
is conditioned
in his functions
by the sensations
of pain or gratification.

“Nothing, I’m telling you.
It’s not that I’m refusing.”

“But you’re not answering…
See, you stay there speechless.”

 

“It’s hard to believe but
I’m relieved
the minute I go out,
as soon as I leave her.”

(He’s haunted by the desire
to be in the presence
of the body he loves,
but after having seen it,
and touched it over and over, then
he’s forced to admit to his regret
that he’s fed up
and in his mind he has already
slipped into the act
of leaving it
so as to be in fact
on the point of finding it again.)

“It’s strange yet true
the relief that
I feel for a moment
as soon as he’s gone.”

…like this, open
swollen, pale,
the  wound, even though
no longer bleeding.

The wall is oozing
dampness :
it’s all rough
with crusts
so that the pictures
can’t hang  straight.

“Come on, put your hand in mine.”
“There it is, caught in the noose
that holds it fast.”
“Swear you won’t  ever
leave it for another one.”

 

 

 

THE SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE

 

“You think I’m hiding something from you, oh my disciples.
But there is nothing that I am not telling you, in truth . ”

        -Confucius

“I had bad teachers. It was a good school.”

        -Arnfrid Astel

 

 

…the dreadful cave,
full of darkness
that stings the  eyes,
of our  uncertainties
about the targets.

A limitless horizon

that you don’t touch,
whose circuit and distance
escape you.

“Beyond the known lands,
they thought, lay
the seat of the blessed
people…”

They have already tried,
with wine, brawling and
love. 
But they’re bored to tears:
they don’t leave
the confined of the room
don’t go beyond the doors,
through laziness through fear
or unconcern.

(…may he succeed
in rendering into words
the state of waiting
and of lack,
and find relief
even in the absence
whose insubstantiality
he fears every moment.)

To move in large numbers
but each on his own
until nightfall
on the maps, the routes …
to quicken the pace
          upwards
to the winning-post, to the one
who reaches the peak first.
But from the top
          down below
a thin layer of mist
obscures the view.

In shabby black,
his slightly moon-pale hands
gripping his stick,
the old man the saint
the master of thought
surrounded by his court
of silent stewards,
of prelates who act
as countersong.

(He didn’t come here,
it’s understood,
so much for the university itself.
It’s another idea, basically,
of space and time,
and overturning
of the past.
Curiosity. Something
he’ll lose, probably,
before too long,
even if for now
it laves him overwhelmed.)

The entryway is a big
long box.
Some light
comes from the courtyard.
The wall is covered
with graffiti : heads
of  Che  and
five-pointed stars,
and, over and over, in red
and black paint :
IN THE HEART OF POWER.

“…we know the destiny
of everyone.
Only that of Nausicaa
remains uncertain.
All that we know about her is
that she was a virgin.
But will it last? Love
or chance or reason of state…”

While he pronounces
loudly
the well-studied formulas,
his lesson,
lifts his forefinger
and modulates his voice laughing,
being  on the side, he presumes,
of reason.

(Fear of what lies in wait
but not so much for himself alone
as for her…that later
the encounter with reality will
change and debase
their union or that, even,
he may leave her with
a lower image of himself.
And again, jealousy
that she may expose herself
in some way.
Keeping quiet , ambiguously,
his intention
of choosing for her.)

The staircase is wide and dark.
Yellow-ochre, thick
with damp spots ,
decorated with a variety of things :
UP WITH THE  PEOPLE,
NO MORE BIBLIOGRAPHY,
WORKERS AND STUDENTS,
DEATH TO THE GREEDY
MANADARINS OF THE BOURGEOISIE.

The idea, repeated, of
imposing order on the world,
of persisting in the search
for the unknown.
If it were only

a matter of patience.
But f it spares us
a lot of hard work…
Expecting
to find answers
on books, on writings.

Walls thick with volumes
and dust and creaking
of bookshelves
         all around.
Voices and footsteps,
down at the table
suspended ,
rustling  of pages
and elbows and buttons.
Noise in the distance
         held back
driven out
by paper barriers.
Flows, currents of energy
from one pole to the other,
rebounding from the pages
to the bodies bent over tabletops.
Perpendicularly
         In balance
to find out on sheaves of paper
lists reports
of a world that’s concentrated
shut as into a box,
squeezed out, distilled.
Everything’s blocked
or moving slightly
like seaweed and fishes
         in an aquarium,
until the thud of a book,
the crash of a chair, 
a sneeze.

…despite the effort
that was made
at every step, violating
reasons, sweeping away
the most secure grasps,
nothing is left.
Everything’s canceled.

Amor che a nullo
amato amar perdona…
But it doesn’t explain anything
doesn’t belong , doesn’t
work, unless
as noise
and pure sound
that reveals nothing else
and gives pleasure
in pronouncing it to oneself,
crumbling it
between the lips.
And …memory
surrenders, vanishes.

(It happens , has already
happened to him, to believe
or only hope
he’s a writer.
He’s cautious and rigid
in this exploration :
he auscultates  himself, and while
he waits,  he’s scared. Yes,
he’s afraid of the verdict.)

“…could I be mistaken,
then, and  be wrong  in thinking it
the only expression.”

It’s a dwelling
here, besides,
as elsewhere,
on the details.

The hall is narrow
and it jars every time
the door slams.
It’s  a corridor
all divided into rooms,
with windows
down to the floor.

“…from these ras
of tiny kingdoms
with their harems
scribes and pretorians.”

…squeezed now
on all sides,
reduced to a few miles.
It was overrun
by land and by sea
by countless hordes,
by a fleet of ships.

It wasn’t the corridor,
the bottleneck
of the Thermopylae.

Hands that clutch

a livid throat,
pulsing in vain.
On the eyes, on one side,
towers and gilded domes
beyond the walls.
On the other…

No memories,
no, no words,
face to face with fear.

The  fall. The siege
of Constantinople.

The idea, at tines,
that what counts is
what has already happened, the rest
of the times, the order
more apparent than …
the result :
surrendering to things
as they are, to
their inert motion, as to
support and cover
the emptiness, at least.

 

“Up above the moon
is the kingdom of the divine
and, underneath,
the human and demonic one.
From ether to earth
the body gets
more and more heavy.”

(After all, he doesn’t believe
in the clean cut.
Saying no suits him fine
until he can choose.
But the imposed limits,
the blindfold on the eyes
and on memory …
he can’t be involved
by the action that pretends
to illuminate the world,
simulates and keeps silent in the name
of a supposed truth,
of faith.)

The big corridor
doesn’t get any light.
It has neon, benches
along the sides,
and low radiators.
Painted slogans all
over the walls,
on which stands out :
NOT MERE FOLLOWERS BUT
SUBJECTS OF HISTORY.

“Main duties,
maybe you never really
thought about it, of all
the priestly orders were,
actually,  to prepare
the daily fare
for the gods
and then eat it.”

To reduce and hone it,
with progressive refining
and then to let it drop
to the bottom, bankrupt
and so be it. But …
not even this, in the end,
is the way.

(He’s afraid that, remaining
in a defense position
in front of many things,
he won’t succeed in telling them
for what they are
and that he can succeed
only if he leaves
an open field
between himself and them.)

 

 

NOTABLE  RESULTS

 

“ …yes, the sublime maxims promote life.”

        -The Minister of Education

“It is not us who succeed in changing things in accordance with
our desire; little by little it is our desire that changes.”

        -Marcel Proust

 

 “Careful ! Get going,
don’t waste time.
Have you done your homework?
Are you through studying?”
“And then…”
“Don’t run around.
Don’t act silly.”
“Phooey.”
“Don’t misbehave.”

“Yes, it looks like
a ghost at this hour.”
“A derelict ship.”

Light in the mirror and a handle. But
in the wardrobe’s dim depths, close-packed
rolled up, stacked
inanimate, piles
of folded white laundry,
in coils and cylinders snaky
against the  dry foul-smelling plywood
creaky, scaling,
seemingly in holiday finery
and preserved intact on its way
motionless,
sealed in shrunken cellophane,
remains substratum pile-dwelling
of useless formulas and figures,
of repeated kinds of gymkhanas,
empty wrapper
wrinkled deflated balloon
crumbled plaster  cloak
without dregs or bones,
pleased and self-satisfied, that …
          once free in the wind
swells puffs twists
monster griffon kite
cloth  ghost-keel,
pale pearly milk
          white light,
waxen   soft body
taken  set free.

 

“…the commitment, in entrusting to you
the new students, the warning ,
the poet’s exhortation :
shape the confident skill
of the bold young people.”

The curtains are dry
with dust,
through dirty windows
light falls
on the cracked walls.

“Sometimes I ask myself
what we’re doing here.”
“It seems that what you hoped to find
eludes you.”

(…sed lex. Therefore
discipline is indispensable.
If soldiers didn’t obey
the general in the field,
defeat in utter chaos
would be inevitable.)

Yellowish bulbs
dangle from the ceiling
and the desks are rickety,
their tops all marked up.

“…the meaning is to gather,
detach, tear away.
It’s said of flowers and fruits,
of bees that sucks pollen.
Of those who enjoy life
but are also consumed by it.
Write, in the margin, the forms :
carpo carpsi carptum carpere.”

“You feel like being
somewhere else, meanwhile.”
“..may everything
run and pass quickly for you.”

 

Spider webs cover
the dusty grids
of the big
rusty radiators.

“Speaking of what
has always been said.”
“Of books that, really,
no one has read.”

“…no, that won’t do.
Don’t be lazy. Theme:
Making every suitable
reference...”

…thy all agree
the world has changed
and studying has become
the number one problem
for young people.

Today, with machines
and the progress of science,
the ignorant man is out of place
in modern civilization…

…when we’re adults,
what shall we do
what won’t we do.
Time presses more and more.

…so as to find ourselves again one day
well-adjusted, I trust, to the kind
of world we’ll live in.

“I saw him  yesterday, you know,
leaving school.”
“Well, say hello, stop him,
exchange a word with him.”

On the floor, dark tangles
of wool and hair
fly up along the walls
at every step.
“I simply cannot
have a conversation with them.”
“Everyone keeps his thoughts
to himself.”

The blackboard is folded up
against the wall.
The slab
is no longer coal-black
and there’s chalk-dust all
along the edges.

Dust pulvis dust,
cloud of dust.
Dust on which to make
the fleeting mark.
In solem et pulverem
Producere doctrinam.
Dust and shadow.
Stinging polishing shaking
in the cone of light
to mingle
in the open doorway.
Trouble and burden left
in the breath
of the heated air.
In dust the grain
that was the beginning.
In dust the grain
that clogs the machine.

“It seems strange, I understand
how it is, and you feel bored
reading it. But it’s
just a matter of time,
I give you my word.”

In the shadow of the classroom
behind the other girls, way in back,
she’s combing her hair and laughing.

 

“I thought that certain things
only happened to me.”
“ Only until someone else
tells you about them.”

“What’s that got to do with it!
The point is : tackle the problem
and from the facts you have in mind
you’ll make up the exact picture
of the situation.”

(…decisive factor
for the formation, always,
of the moral character.
The young student
must reflect and not be deflected
in the educational process
from the essential
contribution.)

“Stay home. It’s better.
Where is it that you want to go?”
“Wherever I feel like.”
“Careful you don’t regret it,
we love you here.”
“So what.”
“The world outside is bad,
you don’t know much about it.”
“I want to see it for myself.”
“What else do you need.”

“I don’t feel the way
writers seem to feel.”
“Maybe they’re weird
too many centuries away from us.”

They’re scribbling something quickly
in their notebooks, giggling,
then reading it together.

“…every intention, the will,
on the verge of happening.
Also destination and necessity.
Understand? At tamen fiet
quod futurum est.”

She rests her chin
on another girl’s shoulder
and keeps laughing.
The shadow is even thicker
during the lesson.

From the cloth from the shadow
the milky larva
of what will be
proceeds imperceptibly,
support and spectre
sign faint resemblance.
Letting yourself go to the shadow
as though balancing
from which to discover light.
To shake yourself, begin again
in the slow state of contact.
Sweet electric liquor,
loose sap.
The dark desire
unfolds and is enveloped,
pushes and pursues,
the sense of an event
that never comes to pass.

“…the rule? Once you see it applied
then, certainly, you’ll find
the lesson fixed in your mind.”

“I know what he wants
from the way he looks at me.”
“It would be enough just for once
to hear him say he isn’t sure.”

She braids her hair
and, looking down, from
time to time she drops her pen
on the desk.

Powerful father
arbitrary rule
master who grasps
and holds up the threads
who moves and sustains
control and permission.
Absent father
distant sun
unknown occupation
pressing puzzle
different and stranger
limit finish end.
Shining father
thought about, dreamed of,
held only by the hand,
returned warrior
briefly disposed to stay
to play to speak for once
papa dad.

“It’s here studying
learning the rules of the game,
that you’ll have a way to know
and prove yourselves later in life.”

“They don’t know what to say,
rotate the same few words in a different way.”
“The keep repeating the phrases
I’ve heard for ages.”

“Don’t think about it.  You’re only
sick : you’re tired, worn out.”
“But if I feel okay…They’re
my problems. Leave me alone.”
“They’re all fancies. You’ll see
they’ll pass with a remedy.”

Mother smiles
in the whirl of words,
in the sun that, in the evening,
stagnates in the dust
on the desks.

“School means everything to her,
my little girl.”
“The only thing a woman needs
is a smattering of knowledge.”
“For me it’s discipline
that matters most.”
At the back of the schoolroom
from the dimly glimpsed group of figures
she looks around
with an air of complicity.

“They’re boys and girls and they demand
certainties about their futures.”
“She’ll see for herself
if ever she has children.”
“…I wouldn’t say  so
but she is very happy
with you, believe me.”

“She’s still a little girl.
In spite of what goes on
in today’s world.”
“I’ve always told her
not to run risks.”
“Not to get involved
in certain things.”

A few hasty words
and an unfeeling laugh,
while the light drowns
swallowed by the ceiling.

“It’s a matter of
good sense, really.
Take it from me:
what really counts,
let me tell you,
is experience.”

Mother matrix
shell from which are stripped
the viscera
vulva dark cave
nacreous shell
sheath case.
Mother stepmother
knot iron wire
twisted cord
hawser end

cable reed copper thread.
Mother godmother
post to which the series cleaves
base prop
wand that guides
oar bar tiller.
To get  enmeshed
stretch break
the tangle.

“What good is it?
It’s a practical
and quite natural exercise.
Solfeggio is boring
and monotonous too,
but if you
want to learn to play…”

The door opens
and a porter
comes in with a directive.

(…not only a guarantee
of peace for Europe,
a seal of everlasting union
of lives and destinies ,
in a single history
and a single civilization.
Mazzini’s dream…)

“She’d like me sometimes
to repeat her words.”
“She wants me to confide
in her, in order to control me.”

“It makes me sick…when
I’m not hungry. No, I don’t like it.”
“Eat, it’s good for you.
What did you do at school?”
“When…this morning?
Ugh, nothing. A waste of time.”
“What do you mean, nothing? And calm down.
Must you grumble at everything I say.”
“The usual, the same old things.
I don’t like it and I don’t want it.”
“Swallow your food and sit up straight.
Are you doing it on purpose? Closer.”

“Well, then, what conditions?
How, when, why…
You can’t ignore the way
and not know the reasons.”

The classroom ‘s dark,
from the opaque globes up there
the lights reach down
only to mid-air.

“…maybe
even nicer.
But try to understand
the exact way to say it.”

She opens the notebook
While looking at her friend,
reads without stopping to take a breath.

Life is a ball .
you immerse it
and it comes up again.”

“Life is a tramp
it goes on its way aimlessly.”

“Life is dirty water.
It’s everything and nothing.”

Living life state
patent latent
action function
diaphragm of nothing
from nothing
diastolic muscle.
Wandering life  state
inciting restraining
action reason
link chain

systolic muscle.
Flowing life  state
stagnant running
action separation
part blend mixture
combination.

“You know, the program…
there’s a higher plan.
Nothing is born from nothing.”

“See you soon then.”
“Goodbye, professor.”

The row of broken clothes-hooks
in the long hall.
The papers and cigarettes butts all
over the floor.

“You’ve probably noticed too
that it’s strange.”
“Little by little you
feel in some ways so different.”

Flood that carries you off
that bends takes apart
from bank to bank
that falls that jumps.
Wave that seizes
plummets and overflows
that pours out and merges
spills over
that disperses envelopes
combines.
Floating waving.

“It’s a wide sea
and you sail in it every day.”
“Until you find a piece
of solid ground on which to stay.”

“O.K. Let’s hurry up.
It’s late.”
“It’s late your eye!
Considering what’s waiting for us…”

“With luck maybe
someone won’t show up today.”

 

 

OUTSIDE THE BODY

 

“ There is, in man, a natural tendency to distance himself
from his body and remove its functions from himself.”

        -Jonathan Swift

“Our body has this defect, that the more cares and comforts
are lavished on it, the more it discovers necessities and
needs.”

        -Teresa di Lisieux

 

 

“The whole thing then,
would be a big mistake.”
“If it’s by chance or
a higher plan, I can’t make  out. But,
for sure, flawed and pain-filled.”

The unknown takes
One step back and goes
Forward endlessly.

“Or, at least, a feeling

of oblivion…How shall I say .
a kind of drowning.”
“May it sink to the bottom,
lost its bearings,
and run away.”

There doesn’t seem to be
a history in life,
things aren’t clearly defined,
from a certain point on, at least, you find
everything seems to happen by inertia
or the pressure of a void
acquiring motion and space
as the days succeed each other
till it’s filled.

“Be careful, of course,
where you go. Follow the trail
and don’t be led astray.
It doesn’t matter if you fail,
especially in what you know.
‘Cause the real mystery
lies right in full sight.”

…if you don’t lose,
you don’t win either.

It’s empty  it’s nothing,
the dive is endless,
out of shade
         shadow,
the body doesn’t surface
          a voice thrusts
out of water,
each one
          hugs
the part of himself that shows
picturing the rest hidden below
stitches the edges
around the gap
imagining the form
that comes only once
in blood and mud
dissolved into being
and up from the bottom
only upside down
deep in the depths
        inter
urinas et feces
under a dim light
through dressings and instruments
out and afloat
         nascimur.

Within the space
of theory,
identity (mine?)
almost the result of entries
at the registry.

Life : state of
confused situation,
attempted relation
between what today was
uselessly organized
and what yesterday  was
inescapably traced.
Torment of gestures
and intentions,
compromise of words
lived and never accepted.

(He doesn’t feel
neither young nor old,
couldn’t say if handsome
or  homely. He only
feels as if he’s in the way
or else he comes near
to completely
disappearing.)

Check-ups, delays,
a seemingly endless wait,
before you finally
take flight.

…so, on the falling
motion, riding the crest
of that wave…

“ Till you discover
that then, beyond,
there’s no shore.”

The progressive cancellation
of people we love or knew,
the account that begins
not to balance as due.
The margin reduces
as more gaps appear
in the thinning rows.

“On the other hand,
the dissatisfaction that assails you
is only natural.”

… for what
you thought
or the memory
of what has been.

(He isn’t very fond
of glimpses of nature
unless they’re viewed
offstage,
from the right observation post,
at least as safe
as it can possibly
be made.)

 

“Almost as if I had
to make it better.”
“Because, indeed,
it’s always disappointing.”

In the sign of escape
and of absence,
of the rotten and obscure,
of the kingdom
no sooner won than lost,
of the bloated pig
that gets its throat cut,
of the heap of snow
that melts into nothingness.

 (He’s obsessed by filth,
by what ‘s slimy and dark.
Horror-struck
by the very sight of spiders,
bugs.
The idea of touching them at all
takes his breath away,
it’s like he bumped
into a wall.)

“It happens to lots of people.
They cherish the illusion
Or the hope
of a solution.”

Sometimes you get through
one of those passageways :
tunnel or hallway
between inside and out
between empty and full.
A well, a volcanic cone,
a precipice. A border
gorge, it seems.

… eyes fixed
on the unknown,
the tone
relaxed, a sudden
spasmodic twitch
of bright red lips
in the waxen face.

A breeze that blows
on everything,
a condensation
of breaths and 
decomposing matter,
a breath of death
that touches down
in slow damp
fermentation.

“Look, it may well be
just as you say.
But it’s boring anyway.”

(…through circumstances
make him prefer discretion
and have imposed on him
whatever good taste
and bourgeois vices
he possesses.)

The annoying thing is
that it happens too
when we’re not there
Aad, involved meanwhile
in something else,
aren’t even aware.

(He knows, he likes
-it must be his way
wholly cerebral –
to keep her shoes on,
at least this one,
with the pointed heel
she carries with her :
he likes to touch it, feel
that he’s being trampled.)

It’s an odd feeling…
“Come on, scratch

with your claws!”
of taking and prevailing,
having her in his power.

The state of pleasure
in which, while
standing quite still,
you follow with your gaze
someone who’s moving
farther away.

Yes, with taste,
with touch and sight,
using his whole
head, hands and lips
and skin…in short,
with his body but
being outside of it.

(Together, again
and always, on stage
making the play come true.
She’s at the doctor
with whom she’s betraying
her spouse.
She plays the maid
he sleeps with as soon
as the Lady goes out.
He’s prone and
she’s ready, both willing
to play their parts.)

It’s the acted role
that matters, the one violated
by being spoken.
It’s the sacred thing
that by its very nature
becomes the cursed thing.

…the tiger bites
and scratches. Her tongue
slips off.

I want you mine,
faithful and
totally dependent.
I want to do
with your life as I please,
without restrictions.
Even if it’s against
all reason,
even if I feel
it’s a kind of trick,
for fear,
a violence.
However that may be.

Maybe it’s a kind
of disturbing interference,
the effect of love
that can’t possess entirely,
but keeps you
from letting go.
It’s the need to guard
your flank, that leaves you
holding on but not resolved
to be involved
completely. En
the weight of skepticism
faced with the evidence
assaulting you that,
no matter what,
everything’s fated, sadly,
to come out badly.

“Can you succeed
in writing it,
discovering it …
the presumed truth
of things?”

 The tall white
knight, the only one
of his kind.

It happens quite unplanned
through countless
numbers of forces
in the field,
surprise, the good luck
of a different route,
the descent from
more distant spaces,
the intersection
at the same place.
But always lacking
even the time or the way
to start talking.

(He’s been in this place before
and who knows
how many more
times he’ll be here.
If she weren’t there,
there’d be another one instead
to echo what he said.
The solution’s here
totally unforeseen, at that,
cynical and cruel,
in admitting that the scene
could change the actors too,
and that he could say
the same things
to other people
with the same conviction.)

“It looked as though,
I don’t know, it might be forever …
Crucial.”
“In an , you would
have said, eternal union.”

The farther on we go
- it’s a fact -
the view is turned upside down.
When standing still
we failed to note in full
the question’s only relative.
It’s motion, yes, that
puts us into relation
with things and … makes
far-off objects close
and nearby ones suddenly
not there.

(All of a sudden he’s inside
the tunnel
in the dead air
that stings his throat.
So many times
he’s been through this before…
and yet, no, it’s useless.
to recall,
or anticipate a single time.
He bumps into the wall
and there he finds
in his blind
unchanging course

- mirror of himself
to his shed skin -,
of what he’s been,
and how much, after all,
he’s changed
against his will.)

So, spontaneously, everyone claims
to be back in a place
never possessed. The role
he is assigned
fades face to face
with the kind
he plays in his own mind.

…the sweet burden.
And still , the feather plummets
like lead to the abyss.

All at once, the idea
of a motionless void,
of nothingness, the absence
of a sign or trace,
freezes the blood and
makes hands and voices shake.
At the most distant point,
no longer that far off :
at the river’s mouth,
only a step,  a span away
from the frontier, who, or what,
is there …to save me
from the fatal jump,
from condemnation.

“In this way, from above
I reached a compromise:”
“With the dream of an accord
in perfection.”

And yet, meanwhile,
I bowed to the fact
that I was sailing adrift.

 

 


  Paolo Ruffilli Mail: paolo.ruffilli@alice.it