La Poesia italiana del Novecento - The italian Poetry of the 20th century

Paolo Ruffilli



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"Which is dearer, the name or the body?"


"The highest degree of presence is absence."

Walter Benjamin




"It’s all too easy

to do what pleases

and what one wants."


The small tin box

is round, and rolls

one side on the bottom half.

You can smell it,

if empty, and lick the shell

when the licorice is gone.


apple orange plum

apple orange plum


...from where they leap

out, dreams, with their

contour lines and clothes

of madness and monsterstyle,

milkshakes and puzzles

with pieces that don’t fit right,

like birds, their colours bright,

or huddledbats

that suddenly take flight

from the ink-blue tree.


"It must be a plot

grownups dream up

out of jealously or spite."


From the impregnable tower

of one’s own castle-home

from which one holds the rest

in straight sight, all.

Akingdom even too small

but safe and quite secure,

as long as one makes sure,

at least, to lock the door.


(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, to be

meantime beheld. To lay it bare:

To hold it up, if need be held.
But he believes inside himself

there must be, yes,

something else at last.)


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.


"...heart, table, cast,

roof, glace, past."


Again. Precise the dry old

rigmarole, word by word

in all its whole. Mirror

portrait, analogy and proof

-beyound the impression-

that the thing is there:

it always will be,

always has been,

though not everywhere

and as may be. Dictation. the Book of

Famous Books,

in the encyclopedia.


"Well, it has the colors

of fire, of snow

and meadow, so tell the media."


(Not, mind you that he stops.

Redoing it, it seems even more

delightful than before.

But he has the feeling that

if he stays so thin as a pin

it might be for this sin.)


"You’ll see:

the faster you go,

the better it will be."


That a word

have gender or person...

But harder to conceive

the state of want,

of absence, in short

the denied presence

in a concept less even

that rejected, inconceivable,

of nothingness, and the wonder

to pronunce it.


"Where is her own?

How is it made?"


(For him, only the joy

of being held. And

then the thought

that it’s unjust

and not so much for her

at last, if she has not the dick.)


"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 overturn,

a gypsy enter the house,

the bottle of oil fall,

his health fail.

Fear of staying in the dark,

finding a murderer 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.


" 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, yes, 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 grey

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, to and fro on all

sides, 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 forevere

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, of a surety,

match the ideal 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 feeling me up."


...let it happen now

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 sweat, in the blood.


"She likes it too,

not to believe."


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, an offense

what’ more a shame,

profaning as you must

the trust. is, it proves to be


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.


Transl by James Laughlin



Prisonniers du rêve

Issus du corps de

nature, détachés, ayant

pris leur vol, mais,

de peur, retombés

dans l’angoisse.

Pourtant aimant

la vie, certes,

pour elle-même.


par expérience

aux choses humaines,

mais s’accoutumant

peu à peu à les considérer

de loin et, grâce au recul,

les voyant plus belles.

Prêts à supporter

privations et déchirements,

méfaits et malheurs.

Prisonniers du rêve

intact d’en sortir,

Dieu sait comment, indemnes.




L’objet de la pensée

C’est une abstraction et

non un fait:

l’objet d’une

pensée, un concept

plus qu’un sentiment,

un état désiré

poursuivi par l’esprit

mais insatisfait,

perdu avant même

d’avoir été conquis

et dont on ne jouit jamais

(toujours sur le point

d’être...), cru

et déliré: le

sens du plaisir.






A la mode litote

"Sans offenseur, pas

d’offensé, comme

sans jouissance, pas de douleur."

... subtil raisonnement

certes, et ô combien

voilé par le halo

débordant de la litote.

Ce qui est détruit

souffre et ce qui détruit,

nonobstant, ne jouit pas.



En attendant l’événement

Le nom pas encore


ce qui, dans le secret

d’une pensée, chaque fois

entièrement se répète

et pourtant n’a pas été...

amorce continue

de l’action restée

prise dans

ses propres crocs.



Jamais plus

Le mot réduit

à l’incroyable, avec

toutes ses

incertitudes, ses remords,

ses sous-entendus. Un

point final pour

le reste qui se meut,

pensé, répété,

prononcé comme

une impossible donnée:

"jamais plus". Pour ce

qui se pouvait

et qui ne fut.




La joie et le deuil

La vie qui

s’allume et

s’éteint par

hasard, la trace

lumineuse, le

sillage que laisse

derrière soi

ce qui fut,

la joie et le deuil:

précipité, tout cela,

dans le vase obscur

entre les bras de

l’ombre. La trace,

flétrie, de

toute chose.



Entre temps

L’origine secrète

la faille

d’où sourd

la source, la projection

vers le mieux, le positif,

ce qui, étant,

se croyant durable,

devient ensuite

immuable, a cessé.

Cependant il est

geyser, soufflard

d’où naît le borax,




Nécessité du leurre

Je sais qu’il est inutile

de savoir que le soleil s’est

levé ou couché, qu’il

fait chaud ou froid,

qu’ici ou là il a

plu ou neigé. Je me

laisse tromper

par les signaux qu’émet

l’objet mort,

pour l’amour que je porte

encore, malgré moi, aux

sept péchés capitaux.



Serviteurs du monde

Les erreurs de la pensée,

les monstres obscurs de

la raison, l’effet des

vaines images sur

le cœur, l’éternel

recours aux ressources

de l’amour, une ombre

de vérité escamotée sans

solution concrète. Avec juste,

au fond, une donnée sûre,

et même plus une prévision:

le temps perdu à

servir le monde.



L’être aimé

Frôlé enveloppé

flatté emprisonné,

miroir confident

aliment tyrannique

oxygéné, l’être

aimé, prétendu

et déclaré.



(Trad. Lorand Gaspar)