The story of my person
is the story of a giant fear
of being myself,
opposed to the fear of losing myself,
opposed to the fear of the fear.
It could not be otherwise:
in apprehension we lose our memory
in submission everything.
pillaged by family,
allow me a stable, concrete maturity.
Nor my solitary life
allow me something less fragile
than this thrashing between worries and insecurities.
I survived childhood,
I survived adulthood.
Almost nothing compared to life.
But I survived.
And now, in the ruins of my being,
something, a firm utopia, is about to bloom.
[Original Italian by Piera Oppezzo (1934-2009).]
I write words every day.
I don’t know where I’ll go
I know I could stay silent.
Those who know, don’t speak.
Mute in the womb of time
where people even cry.
will be enough to understand and say
what the voice cannot.
I touch every instant, every day
the cry and the thunder. I live around.
I could stop and wait.
[Original Italian by Margherita Guidacci, ‘In silenzio’.]
Paris sleeps. A giant silence
climbs down to occupy every crack
between tile and brick. Cats and birds
are quiet. I keep watch.
August without claxon. I survive
alone, maybe. I hold in my arms
like Sainte Geneviève my city
peeking out of the cape, in a corner of the painting.
[Original Italian by Maria Luisa Spaziani, ‘Parigi dorme’.]
I am pregnant with you,
woman who will live in the world’s tomorrow.
In a distant year
my flesh created,
my fibres remember,
each day a darkened labour
bodily suffering tamed by will
and sweetened by hope
Now not a man’s seed in me
not an embryo fed by my blood
but in my spirit
lies the eager image of you, woman,
of the you who will be
slowly molded, nurtured
knocking at doors wanting life,
fully formed at last
in auras of freedom and truth
woman in the world’s tomorrow.
I carry you with me, a clear image,
contrast and complement
to my heart’s troubles,
hurting for some many today
hurting for inhuman toils
hurting for dehuman children
or for children kidnapped in war,
or inanimate objects of lust,
oh my discouraged kin, shame on all!
And I hear others shrieking
unknowingly laughing along
and I see others in shock
more self-absorbed than their men
greedy yearning toxic riches.
As if I held you in me
I focus on you, in you, creature of new
on your future features
creature fully true of a life of truth achieved,
a life redeemed of its beastly remains,
as this land grows each day more beautiful
with everyone’s toil a fervent hymn
harmonious hymn of the human spirit.
And I am not alone, more and more
just like me carry you within
and in flashes of blessings
something of your gaze shines through,
the image of you our safety
the image of you our hope
as the world today derides us,
bitter and blind opposes us
oh all you brave and fighting
girls, wives, tender powerful old
in proud labour and still blessed
by your arrival, woman, in the world’s tomorrow
in this sibling shelter
just and good
and finally worthy of glory,
you, harmonious queen of freedom and truth.
(Original Italian by Sibilla Aleramo, ‘Donna nel domani del mondo’. There are many versions online, but I’d rather link to an extract from her diary, from 1959.)
I fall for the song’s strength:
if only I could conquer the earth
with my poems and make it tremble
beneath the poetry of song.
So I seed words, a watchful
sower of meagre clumps of soil
and still someone will rise to listen
one with a secret song in their heart
one who unravels, for a while, the spool
of their lively imagination.
[Original Italian by Alda Merini, ‘Il volume del canto‘.]
There is a square in the town
in the city where she lives
It has three sides
of flagstone and brick
and then two more: an inside
The inside feels, for all intents and purposes,
like flagstone and brick,
like sandstone and rock,
like concrete and mud.
The outside feels different.
There is a man on a bridge
in the city where she lives
who draws his life day after night
fighting the creatures on one side
and the other.
He knows the flagstone and brick
of the outside and inside
he knows the stars and sky.
There is a woman in a room
in a house in the city where she lives
who looks like a page from a book
but only for one day, one day in the year.
She knows the concrete and sweat
of the inside and outside
she knows the leather and print.
There is a book, there is a room
there is a bridge, there is a sky
They are the outside of the square
which is not a square in one
but multiple cities
of France of England of Morocco
and yet of brick and stone
and of stars and sky
of outside and of inside.