When you’ll bow your white head disappointed
and in your bones pierced by time
you’ll feel real hard the piling of years
and the moist air
don’t give up
and don’t get paralyzed into tired-old habits.
Don’t surrender your life’s helm
to doctors, caretakers, your children’s pity
before illness devours you piece by piece
and your thoughts lay scattered into confused fragments
no longer glued together by the game of memory,
before a mournful hospital
or a convalescent home prelude to the end
offer your body to shameful care,
don’t beg the machine for a residual breath.
Your last days give them to the struggle.
With the energy you have left flee far away from yourself
on the map of the world seek war
against suppressed rights, violated freedoms,
occupy lands next to the campesinos,
climb barricades with the Curds
may the wind of action fill your wrinkles
as it blows on attack and defence;
don’t kill anyone, but protest and scream loud,
offer your body as a shield to the young ones on the frontlines
as for an old one to die while fighting,
mowed down together with a thousand young ones
is a dignified and honorable choice.
Your eyes won’t be closing on long bygone days
but a chariot of light shall take you Elsewhere.
from “L’ora prima”, Edizioni Rossopietra 2017
They laughed while we played charades
I, usually, the quiet one
was the best at creating pictures from nothing
moving my hands, marching in place
Who was I?
A man of few words, but everyone sought me out
for my retorts sharp as arrows.
We exchanged nonsense between one glass and another
and they all were fond of me, if to be fond
meant to stay close
and grip my shoulder tight with their strong arms.
– He isn’t here yet -, they would say at a loss
and immediately they’d call asking me to get there.
Now among my buddies I am known as
the one who stinks and howls with pain.
From silence to ceaseless groaning
– Come on, don’t be like that -, they say.
And I may stifle a scream with my hand
but a wound cannot shut up even if dressed tight
and infects the air with its putrefaction
They tolerate my presence, that’s all: there is no room on a boat
Everyone avoids me and if they greet me
they do it with their hand on their ears and plugging their nose
leaning out towards the waves, seeking the smell of salt.
It’s a terrible, trivial thing that doesn’t cause me to die
but reminds others that I am a scandal.
Not beautiful, bygone times, not flowers at a gravestone.
Who was I?
I drag myself and now I would find so many more rational words
but instead I must howl.
At the end they can’t take it anymore and lock me up in a lighthouse.
But everybody else is broken up too
and surround themselves with rooms and signals.
The howl, the stench, the distance.
Perhaps this is a new Age and I have inaugurated it.
Everybody fighting alone to make themselves look good
and show off how heroic they are.
They surround themselves with metal shields
reflecting their house lights.
I am the only one howling and my wound drains loneliness
The others only pretend they care.
They send me messages to my prison
not seeing my face they remember me as a funny guy.
They try to friend me, as though we had been hugging buddies.
They ask for arrows to win a competition
– you who are so good at it… -,
competition where walls are torn down
and old people are set on fire in the streets, just for fun.
Alan Mathison Turing is a fag
he invents a machine to crack Hitler’s coded messages
but he is a fag
he saves thousands of people from navy attacks and air raids
but he is a fag
his contributions are fundamental to winning a world war
but he is a fag
he invents the computer
but he is a fag
he invents the system to infallibly tell a human being apart from a machine
but not from a fag
They find him in bed with a young man
an indiscreet sequence
which must be solved with discretion
it is a paradigm that
Alan Mathison Turing knows
either years in prison
or hormone therapy
this is the Victoria Cross
that he is awarded
by her grateful Majesty
a cross without victory
Turing is bombarded with female hormones
enough with those irregular erection to fuck boys in the arse, ok?
he grows soft breasts
and turns into Turing Tiresias.
Alan Mathison Turing with titties!
He acquires the gift of clarity
starts to understand the future
his story is a Hollywood movie
he can reveal it to you if you ask
with an appropriate message
a discrete one.
Military Intelligence intervenes
and turns him into a chaste Snow White
it offers him a poisoned apple
but the crystal coffin
is shattered by cremation fire
Alan Mathison Turing burned to a crisp
not in a concentration camp but in the United Kingdom
so that Prince Charming may never
kiss his lips in the grave.
The way down
Before entering, I prick a finger nice and deep.
I’ll backtrack following the drops of blood
and I’ll find the exit
I turned off the smartphone
because the Minotaur reads messages
and with every vibration he arches his horns and his hooves scratch the ground.
Where is the shine of gold?
The Labyrinth is a mess of ruins;
I barely discern a path.
i must find a way
climbing over collapsed walls and pieces of fallen plaster.
Twisted railings, broken glass, exploded sheet metal
fill the sides if this hard trail.
Where is my enemy?
The center: a crater made by a bomb and a burned minion
All around an expanse of devastation as far as the eye can see.
I want to go back.
The spilled drops are mixed up: the blood of others,
still fresh in the boulevards, has covered the way back.
I dig, I sink, I find dead bodies:
a little girl buried there tells me the way down.
from Poesie per Recaptcha, Oedipus Edizioni 2018
Translated from Italian by Pina Piccolo.
Paolo Gera (Novi Ligure 1959) earned his degree in Literature from the University of Genoa, with Edoardo Sanguineti as advisor. He is a teacher, author and theater director. He participated in important national festivals such as the theater Festival of Santarcangelo di Romagna and the Festival of Philosophy in Modena . His poetry collection L’ora prima was published in 2016, Poesie per Recaptcha in 2018 and In luogo pubblico in 2019. He is a regular contributor to digital literary journals such as Cartesensibili and Versante Ripido, and print ones such as L’Indice dei libri del mese.
Cover image: artwork by bill bissett.