Monday, December 24, 2012

The long wait for the angel

After four years I have decided to read my fourth book in Italian in thirty years. It's a powerful "incandescent" novel on the life of the Venetian Reneaissance painter Jacomo Tintoretto. The details, the atmosphere are vibrant, the colour red dominates with that sense of peculiar closeness the stones and walls of my city can create. The stones' stare. And the water lapping your breath.
"The long wait for the angel" is the English translation of the title of this novel. A novel my wife praised to me probably more than any other. What is interesting is that "The long wait for the angel" is not really the translation of the title since it is the translation in Italian of a line from a 1956 Sylvia Plath's poem which I have just found. I felt it so close to me when I read it that I received that jolt any reader of poetry I think knows well when each line he or she has just taken in is on target. This is probably the best poem I have ever read on miracles and on the wait for them.

Black Rook in Rainy Weather
by Sylvia Plath

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, not seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Leap incandescent

Out of the kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then ---
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical,
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait's begun again,
The long wait for the angel.
For that rare, random descent.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fondamenta Delle Carceri.

Steps in the night silence,
walking and talking, I’ve always liked
a moment in the tale of one’s life
that sparks into an epiphany.
I was walking you to the car park-
the evening of confessions was almost over,
your words with layers as deep as the city
not fearing the mud they sank in, not at all-
we were passing by the prison, on the stones
skirting the grass, damp with frost, it was cold,
the puffs of our breaths pulsing the graphics of our words.
I said, “You look better than last time, definitely”,
your eyes were dark pools, jewels shining
with the lights of the street lamps in the fog,
I’ve always liked the blur of light filtered into
the damp and thick dots of air,
what brings so close any breath, any stare.
“I look better, maybe, well.. I’ve lost that
whimpering edge in my voice because
now, you know, I’m in the shit, really”.
You smiled then, for the first time.
I said” Shit does you good.”
And I embraced you for a second by the prison door.
I left you at the car park, your eyes,
in the light of the asphalt and the lightened glass,
were still retaining the shards of a smile.
Walking back, in the dark corners,
frost and salt gnawing plasters,
your “in the shit” was sparkling,
a necklace of furrows, a silver lace of troubles
where I would anyway have liked to be.
Dark and damp corners. Life.
While I was in bed a lace
kept sparkling in a chink in the shutters.
That night I couldn’t sleep.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Hardened sand with embedded shells
at the water’s edge, low winter sun,
clear sky, sea horizon.
Zero’s beauty. Its vast “r”.
The merging of here with there
in the quiet waves’ roar.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Being not completely out,
not yet, the brief candle,
how many times
you have let yourself go
exploiting the momentum,
the silence of those
hearing you,
maybe listening,
how many times you have
kept speaking pretending
not to notice the surrounding
and have repeated
the same sentence
which hides another, the real one,
or hides simply emptiness
or a vacancy or the vertigo
of the unspeakable
for which you would need
another courage,
another forage,
how many times
you have not been able
to step into a full stop,
driven by your own windmill,
swirling in the chill,
pretending a thrill
entwined in your own reel.
And the sea is still
and still spreading, still and spreading,
how relentlessly and uselessly
you have been faring while fearing
the silence that is?

Saturday, December 8, 2012


It’s blue, it’s there like a stone,
as inert and dead as a bone
on the table in the teachers’ room.
Teachers must check and double-check,
with the same care riders have for their
horse’s girth, what is written in it,
this is the headmaster’s law, take it or leave it
( leave it if you can, leave it all –said to me a friend,
but that was ages and ages ago when” I
was young and foolish”).
So I enter the room, leaf through the book’s pages
still with my coat on and get to the call
of my latest duties beyond the regular teaching,
assemblies, reunions, what the headmaster wants,
whether I like it or not. I never like it.
The word “ unfair” keeps hanging stubbornly
like a sting, in my heart and in the air.
It has been hanging for many a decade,
will it keep hanging until I fade?
At the end of the year the book is thick
with the pages of orders pasted in it.
Bones never grow in the earth, they
get yellower and smoother, solemn
in their motionlessness.
This book gets bloated like the corpse
of a drowned man.
Burn, burn the corpse if you can.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Just closing the door,
quick, leaving home before dawn,
you smell the street-
damp stones, a tang of metal, the cold,
and the forwardness of the steps and puffs of breath,
the velvet darkness on the move, the starkness
of the early things down on the pavement,
sparse coughs lighting it like sparks;
instants of a god in a rush, on the threshold,
whispering with no words but elation,
a nimble sky that touches and goes,
the sprightly wave of a sidelong glance
between hurry and silence.
I was thinking about this poem this morning, feeling again the same wintry, elated atmosphere while leaving home to go to work. It's about streets in Venice even if, for a reader, could be set in any place. I am writing a long poem now on Venetian places and on how they are at one with my whole being...
"A God" is almost ten years old, it appeared in "Dream Catcher" in the spring 2003.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Debris, all over the strand,
driftwood after a sea storm,
poured out of the horizon’s frown,
our tossed up losses, our mess from the unknown.
She enjoys jumping in and out of this wood web,
sniffing salt on rugged damp bark
while the sea roar fills the picture
with its wide open throat.
It could be anything seen from above,
the tatters of us all, the gristle of our souls,
many a Lear’s new rages and regrets,
released from dragonish clouds to make us strut and fret.
I gaze, blow a thin whistle in her direction,
asking to move forward, lose sight of her
for a moment in this Guernica of wood,
then she reappears, a long stick in her mouth on top
of a mountain of sand, she is dangling it from side to side
as if it were a trophy I am due to recognize.
All this, like anything, could be a dream,
its sense scattered and lost in what is seen.
Another flash in the puzzle,
in the scattering of our transit,
what we can remember and forget, put in a life’s file,
what we can't but accept, in the meanwhile.