The poems “Rotten Paradise”, “Pronaos” and “Slavic etymology” are from the Italian language poetry anthology MIG – 21 AA.VV (miscellaneous authors), Laura Capone Editore, 2021.
I’m waiting to finish this cigarette
in the entrance to a house that will never be completed,
− bare bricks, tarpaulins
instead of windows
a clock forever striking a quarter to nine,
a blind kitten whose eyes you rinsed with chamomile,
and then you, a shadow of yourself with that smudged makeup
as you carve the chicken for former exiles,
smells of sarma, kuruza and potatoes
one step away from that paradise
molded and smoothed by corruption
every face, not just yours, ends up sporting
a cracked, feeble smile.
And me too, I would love to hold you close to my chest,
for every spot on your hands no longer young,
for every inch of your corroded liver,
for every lost child,
for every time you lowered your eyes to the ground
before the so-called winners.
You are all one
you and the white of winter
of a remote state that belonged to the world,
all one, the acceptance and rebellion
that you are incapable of hurling out of yourself,
woman who already belongs to oblivion.
When you go
like jellyfish you leave trails
that burn after their passage
I don’t know if I’ll stay algae
Or turn into the Algos of pain
Like a shell embedded in stone
dusted off by fingers – your words
– next time let’s go east –
the first ray of light arises
I did want to be water, to forget,
I did want to be a whispered word, to flow,
smoothly, avoid the tangles,
I did want to be the horizon, to deny the binding earth,
I did not want to be, I did not want to stay;
yet I looked for you and created with the written word,
to heal the dizziness of desertion,
feverish and frightened every stroke
that lacked the courage to hold on tight.
I shall leave – I said,
and remember already seeing myself in your memory,
I recollected us while writing:
nailing the writings I dedicated to you on the wall,
page after page
– STAY –
I nailed my own hand,
red on white
– blood on the poems –
and realized it was to myself that I was saying
What came to pass has become a memory,
– the caterpillar, the butterfly –
fragmented rock put back together haphazardly
in an order that has no recollection of the cosmos at all;
day-long lives stuck on pins
in the house of Speak, memory*,
lifeless childhood places,
yet their dictionaries are still pregnant:
the title of a poem penciled in on the piece of paper – your voice, The Call –
bullets in the drawer lined with decoupage paper
by a child distant in time,
traces of colored pigment,
ruins of an indoor space.
- Refers to a work by Nabokov.
You will fall.
You will fall every time before innocence,
every time, your bowed head, your bare neck
you shall offer to the sword of frailty;
nothing else, like tenderness, shall carve your flesh,
nothing else, more burning wounds shall leave;
trembling will turn into scars,
and so wiil indecisions,
in front of the door that leads to the temple:
and perhaps you shall always live life halved
– once stripped of the flesh-
unable to bear the weight of light.
Twenty thousand knives
hanging from the ceiling
to challenge the ground
Twenty thousand heads
written on the blades
to slavish souls
Courtesy of the author, translated from Italian by Pina Piccolo.
Mihaela Šuman was born in the former Yugoslavia in 1980 and spent her early years between Bosnia and Croatia. In 1993, following the outbreak of the Balkan war, she moved to northern Italy, to the region of Trentino. She interrupted her high school studies because of problems integrating in her new country and returned to Bosnia, but was soon to go back to Italy.
Florence became her adoptive city for 15 years, from 2004 to 2019. There she taught herself how to make paper-mâché masks and organized exhibitions, while completing her art studies in evening courses and learning LIS, the Italian sign language. Perhaps she even felt a little at home in Florence, though she was soon to move away.
In 2019 she won a national competition of contemporary Italian literature, poetry and graphics section, sponsored by publisher Laura Capone Editore, and ten of her poems were published in the anthology MIG – 21 AA.VV.
She currently lives in Turin.