“Ay ay ay, que el esclavo fue mi abuelo es mi pena, es mi pena. Si hubiera sido el amo, sería mi vergüenza “-
” Ay ay ay, that my grandfather was a slave is my pain, is my pain. Had he been the master, that would be my shame ”
Julia de Burgos
That my grandfather was a slave
that his body be broken, still inhabited
by a black lump of exhaustion and pain
walking up to the county highway then taking a bus,
nine hours in the foundry,
this is my greatest pain
and I would like others to be privy
to the oxygen tanks to be refilled,
the expanse of painkillers,
our respective apprenticeships in caretaking,
our telephone friendship with Anna
who operates the hospital switchboard.
Today, on the list, next to the milk and yeast
for the morning shopping, I write all the names
of those we hold accountable.
That my grandmother was also a slave
and her mother too,
and so her father’s mother,
that this slavery
whether it be is called sharecropping or working on the estate,
factory or hospital room,
whether it be the beatings everyone received
from goon squads or politicians like Scelba*,
then by the Party
betrayed by the only thing that’s supposed not to betray,
this is yet another pain difficult to bear
and so I write the names of all the culprits on a bigger sheet of paper
May I always love you
but the strongest in the moment just before sleep,
thinking of your grandmother’s father
in the orderly archives
preserving for us the memory
of his luminous existence as a thief
on the trains of the Appulo-Lucane Railways
this being neither a pain nor a shame
but the only form of life
that I would want to save.
Today I realized that none of them
and none of us have
ever been or will one day ever be
*Mario Scelba, notorious, right wing Italian politician known for his law and order policies which he drafted and enacted from 1947 to 1962 as the longest serving Interior Minister Italy has ever had. Scelba was a key figure in Italy’s post-war reconstruction thanks to his drastic reorganization of the Italian police which was used most often used for the ruthless suppression of left-wing workers protests and strikes.
OUT OF DISGUST WITH THIS SOCIAL ORDER (LABRIOLA)**
Out of disgust with the present social order,
we desperately tried to resist,
there are those who preferred to conform
while the bravest killed themselves.
We resist with the steep practices
that we have slowly learned.
Never give in to the masculine,
give up the spaces of power
always male and white even
even when a female or a fag
exercise it, raise your voice to a high pitch,
dance on stage expecting
to die up there, like Iolanda Gigliotti,***
to make our hollowed-out bodies instruments
an amplifier for the pain
of others where our voices and those
of all the marginalized resound
But this is not a catalog or a list
of planned out life-saving gestures
to face the outside world, no,
but rather a plot outline of what
we do, driven by disgust
for the present social order,
for the colonial domination we suffer
over our non-conforming
yet pugnacious bodies resistant
to the shiny biceps of masculinity
and his brother Capital.
** Antonio Labriola: Late nineteenth century Italian Marxist theoretician and philosopher.
*** Iolanda Gigliotti, professionally known as Dalida, diva of French and Italian song famous from the mid 1950’s to the mid 1980’s. Singing in 10 languages, she is the most internationally successful French performer of all time. Her diverse repertoire and heartfelt interpretations of both sentimental ballads and pop music have brought her adoration by mass audiences and by politicians and intellectuals alike. She committed suicide a few days after her last concert.
LOST TERRITORIES OF THE REPUBLIC
The difference is always and only
between our dead and theirs:
because ours were killed by them.
On this Thursday in May
the syntax of the armistice
does not lie encrusted on walls
with the stentorian voice of general Diaz****
hanging from all the commemorative plaques,
bulletins, celebrations, remembrances.
Improvised plaques resist
flaking off the edges and with accents out of place,
petty names stolen from the litany
of official history,
comrades and classmates
from the school of struggle.
During the night someone defaced the plaque
for those who died in the trenches
and established yet another memory:
in that mimetic gesture
there is a sense of defeat
but also a breath finally alive and great.
For today the plaque circled in red
is my Zone to Defend
before it be erased over and over by power
in this peace where decorum
is the only poetics possible
because our dead are not and will never ever
be the same as theirs:
for now the only power that must concern us
is only that of disfiguring..
****Armando Diaz, Italian general known for leading the Italian royal army through decisive victories in World War I.
Don’t forget, when different words are sanctioned,
other attitudes are required. Don’t forget decorum.
Don’t forget decorum.
Design, technique, its reproducibility,
don’t forget that decorum
can design an entire city,
the urban park benches
installed by municipal roadmen
designed to prevent
the homeless from resting,
under the overpasses Mesozoic rocks
engineered by the Sumerian hands
of a superior technician do not decorate
but eliminate from the gaze
the unwanted and the misaligned
bodies that do not count on the
fast edge of a ring road hurled
towards the violet citadels
of the market and of pain
outside the supermarkets, in the evening,
policemen carry out the orders they received,
requisition the alms money and
demand the woman’s personal details.
A mayor writes in his ordinance
that beggars cause discomfort and insecurity
in the population of this municipality,
damage the image of the city and
give rise to distorted perceptions of reality .
The arid prose of the document recalls
that of Tacitus, stony, unquestionable
in narrating the exemplary life
of Agricola or the campaign of Britain,
but studying the ordinance it is Juvenal
who echoes in your mind: contempt as a
political attitude and poetic discipline, feral
declaration in a hostile language.
Jessy Simonini was born in 1994 in the province of Bologna, Italy. After pursuing doctoral studies in Medieval Literature at the ENS in Paris he is currently completing his Ph.D. in Italy. “Campi di battaglia” is his first poetry collection. He is director of the poetry journal Le Voci della Luna.