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The year of José Saramago’s death

a poem by Sergio “Sergej” Failla – translated by Lucia Capuana

by Sergej Lucia R. Capuana - Thursday 22 July 2010 - 2027 letture

Tell me about your islands, of your sailors – of the sacred symbols and of the spreaded names
tell me of your beginnings and about the uncertain handwriting – the stubborness
tell me of those carnations and of your surfing board
(see, I always take it with me in my car
and in the back seat I’ve put your straw-hat
and the blackened cane that once belonged to my grandfather)
the year of José Saramago’s death (it was the 2010)
sorry, I hardly care about football
I’m told that many party in the streets
because nobody listens or looks elsewhere intentionally
in Athens, as in Naples, in Paris, even in Germany,
I’m told, the soup is now scarce
and the rich are still even more hungry
in winter I tie my shoes/in summer it’s already time for sandals
we went together up on that small hill
there’s the roaring sea – and here are the olive trees
breaking through the absence of the parched mouth/ the taste of anisette
it’s the two seas meeting, fingers clasping.

(hapiness seems to be a matter of nooks and corners, little islands and narrow spaces – the water runs down the shower door pane like words
the toilet- my father used to say- is the best place to think in)

We take along with us a thousand names
and in our ears we hear all the voices
(sometimes, one of them grabs a loud speaker
and speaks for us, in our place with our own voice
sometimes almost always they all speak together and we would like to shut our ears and hear no more)
and we smell garlic and onion – the roll of drums
the troops are deployed on the battle field
the sentinel dozes off the night of the siege
the city crumbles like a biscuit
while the earth is startled in its sleep.
I still hear my grandfather whistling
to call me
as soon as the house door was opened
and I still see the sparkling hallway
the wax and Rosina’s elbow –
the great beige closet along which I crawled
to go towards him.
And my uncle Alfio’s happiness
who would make me sit by his side
on the hospital bed of the Victor Emmanuel
the black spotted skin on his hands, on his face
that last time, I remember, I saw him still alive.
There, you would say to me, behind words there are things
and behind things there are lives – and that’s what we need to talk about
that’s exactly what we must talk about
memory which is life, our life.

a poem by Sergio “Sergej” Failla – translated by Lucia Capuana


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