I am delighted to post this translation. It is the result of a year-long collaboration with Serena Todesco. It was first published in the Cork Literary Review.
Rosaria Lo Russo is a poet, translator (of among others Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Erica de Jong and the Argentinian poet Alfonsina Storni), essayist, actress and performer of her own work. She was born in Florence where she now lives. She regularly collaborates with musicians and performers and has contributed to many programmes on the state radio station Rai Radio Tre. In 2006 she made a documentary on the life and work of poet Amelia Rosselli. A panegyric of freedom, a tribute to Amelia Rosselli on the tenth anniversary of the death of the poet, the film has been widely distributed and shown at universities in Italy and abroad.
The following links are all in Italian:
Rosaria Lo Russo’s website
Rosaria Lo Russo performs ‘Sonetessa’
Interview with Rosaria Lo Russo
Crolli by Rosaria Lo Russo (from which these poems are drawn)
Serena Todesco was born in Sicily and now lives in Zagrebwhere she and her poet husband Silvestar Vrljić run the Brutal literary festival and publishing house. A graduate in Translation and Interpreting from The University of Bolognaì, she now holds a PhD in Italian Literature from University College Cork.
Her translations work includes Croatian writers Silvestar Vrljić, Irena Delonga and Ana Brnardić; Nikola Madzirov (Macedonia), and most recently, with Silvestar Vrljić, a Croatian anthology of Singaporean author Alvin Pang (Other Things and Other Poems, Brutal 2012).
An account by Serena Todesco of our collaborative project on Rosaria Lo Russo (in Italian)
Visit the webpage of Florentine photographer Laura Albano
Poems from Crolli – Rosaria Lo Russo
Translated by Serena Todesco and William Wall
Things, disowned and badly treated, bear me a grudge.
Itching nits hatch from cracks,
suggesting future alien infestations.
The drooping streamers of some old birthday
like eye-bags improvised of pain
immense, abrupt like a coplanar.
I’d liken these gathering rifts
to those of our neighbours recently at war,
there where the party-things are crumbling,
but also to a loser’s tolerated tear.
But one becomes attached to things and everywhere
I lay down arms furtively like one possessed
and you, don’t you look at me , while, in vitro,
supperpresumptuous, we flow together into very civil wars.
Thus they steal – little rhyme – our ancient tongue
disseminating babylons as if shaking
off babellicose towers, mindlessly reducing
idioms to weary ornaments of dust.
Exhausting the brutal fertile desert
descending bomb by bomb on the purged arena,
disheartened gladiators high on gear.
The rusting pincer of the stubborn delta,
bifurcate, bays at our barbarians.
Thus the invaded emulate with arms,
the alien who disturbs the begging dogeared papers
with fluorescing phosphorous conceits.
And no one knows who secretly has money on it.
Closing the cracks, burning the corpses, snorting
with haste: dust to dust, and the ashes to be
scattered, contriving fences of enlightenment for these
black-bearded Neroes! Mamma mia, the Turks! announces the announcer,
in short, nods and winks for the Clash of Civilisations
for those whitewashing the dusty poor, for whom
there is the funeral lament and the mouths closed by dead hands
or even by fiddling the system, oh pontius pilates from some other channel.
And to empty the kennels of these defiant heretics
long-distance adoptions pillage infants,
other kennels are prettified for the faceless hooded ones,
while the mother-tongue calls home the conqueror from the void.
To Luigi Nacci, brother
To recapitulate: it forms up well The Front Of the Demented;
nothing new, once again, attracts The Western Front;
dust corrugates the leather covered foreheads,
defoliating, wrecking plants, fruitless brawls,
collapsing of gaunt cheeks, the ultraviolet
flashes of war announced by Miss Talking Head,
with the dust-to-destitute nonviolent ashes of the dispersed,
joebloggs wounded among renegade germs, fix yourself
your artificial paradise and stay there if you’re brave enough
surrounding yourself with obscure showgirls, pushy toupéed culture-
mongers, petty measurers, wimpish shafters, pimpish leftovers
of Guantanamera, The Red Flag, or Faccetta Nera.
Irreparably boyish big eyes
invade a static emptiness,
indicate a descent into the underworld
without respite of punishment.
Undersmells in the aerial emptiness of waking
a wasted froth of saliva on the pillow.
Impertinent things taken unawares,
Imperturbable, expose pleats and eclipses,
cracked like frowns.
The crevices symmetrically signal
risks of species extinctions or caducei,
a fulminating peritonitis of plaster, a roaring
sordid arousing, re-drowsing.
The gloomy things reabsorbing
two vexed suspicious glances
at the risible repudiated missionary lady
from the irresistibly ascending bourgeoisie
as if from the bourgeoisie in decline and fall.
We who made the revolution that did not
work, take smoke like poisoned
milk. The new pope made a clean sweep
even of limbo. Even an unbaptised
child will aspire no more for
semi-immortality. In this glade that suspends
heavy metals we inhale, so to speak, the toxic
residues of civil rights. I read with unutterable
pleasure, in a sweet old translation
of Saint Theresa about the incomparable
value of a modicum of mortification.
La Sapienza does not want this pope:
Dante would put Galileo in limbo
to hang about with Aristotle, since it is not really
the scientific method to blame if the earth,
and also mankind that well represents her,
is just a small ball of shit that rumbles,
more or less orderly, around the universe;
in fact even the Egyptians used to say it.
The oozings of a sewer settle on the dry
torrent. Flocks traverse the dust and stand
among burned truck-tyres where the carcass
of a washing machine appears. The eye climbs away. Set in hills
the twisted south burns, a diver’s mouth shut, he skewers a meagre
weever-fish and castrates its head at the marina , the evening
stink of the pork processor, and from the local
dairy factory in the generic plain of first fruits
the smell of liquorice and mint is almost
everywhere disappeared, and anyhow
does not transmit its myth anymore, even where
childhood nests, the mystic aeolic, like when
I used to go up and down on my bike stealing pumpkin flowers
and blackberries; extorted and forsworn, my country is finished.
Three dissonnets on the fall of the stock market
Still you’re attracted to the Chinese trinkets,
though toxic, the glass or porcelain
junk, the frippery and the fancy shoes.
You’re a happy consumerist and buy ten thousand
in stocks precisely when the markets are falling
and they rise and fall down always more deafen-
ingly. It would be as if one were to go to the sales
and didn’t buy even a little coat,
you told me, speaking as one confident in the global
future of the Right, as one who is always sure
of herself, fearless in increasing her
own capital. I sharpen the little scissors and the grieving pen-
knife, conscious nevertheless that dental
floss would be less useless.
I would have never thought I’d see the end
of capitalism, says Bruno whispering, smiling
shamefaced – we owe it to ourselves – in the pure memory
of a teenage friendship. Of course it’s not the end
of capitalism! I rather see the permanency
of the usual brutes, arrogance ignorance neatly
disturbing power, gomorrah like before, more
than before, and no one (including me) feels for more than
one second after another a morsel of dis-
honour. When as kids Bruno and I
used to play as the anarchic shelleys
Silvio had long been making buckusconi.
Money counts for nothing, the pope said it: it rises
and falls down again like a jesus on the way of the cross.
Yet let’s not wait for salvation, nor do we bother.
People with baggy eyes are very often
sexy. But it must be a slight reinfla-
ting of sagging skin and a welcoming smile
forthright and direct. Nothing to do with the blisters
of blackish or violet liquid that bulge sub-cut-
aneous in the lower periocular zone of the elderly
or of that beautiful girl who took a hit bang in one
eye from her boyfriend’s mobile just for a laugh, yes,
injected with blood the eye is unable to resist
the spurting wounded hatred. For the brokers
the ushers the promoters or the whothefuckaretheys
screaming in wall street pity I don’t unfortunately or
fortunately have, and don’t bother me with salvation.
I surrender. I lift my arms –
they fall, brass and alabaster,
my knickknack heart stops astonished
and glides like this, slow as stone,
invades the gall-green balloon, and downward
installs itself in the sloppy sack of the lap
where it flourishes. The carotid match flames,
words implode from your mouth to my
belly’s mouth, they swagger.
And thus I infer, in the centrifuge of a brutal gaze,
the blunt fact of dismay.
And thus it dares, in the centripetal mind,
by fitful insights, lightnings, the absolute
simplicity of our definitive denial.
Because this is a collaborative work I cannot make the translations available as Creative Commons. Accordingly these translations are © Serena Todesco and William Wall. To enquire about permission to use them please contact me by email.