from Issue #4: Poetry by Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi

Photo (CC) Paul Albertella @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Paul Albertella @ Flickr


Read Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi’s original Italian, followed by Theodore Ell’s English translations in blue.



Da Il Parlamento d’amore

La camera bassa lancia il grido. Un razzo
si accende nel cortile del nuovo millennio.
Una cometa chiama a raccolta. Decisa a riaprire
il parlamento d’amore chiuso da tanto tempo.

Da quando il Novecento è finito e i bambini
chiamano da ogni finestra cieca. Da ogni lager
di Germania Italia e Albania. Da quanti
anni non parlano. Mentre tornano in mente

i volti scarni di Giorgio e di Giovanna. Tornano
per affacciarsi alle pareti gialle che il male
ha scalcinato. Se aprono le finestre e la bambina
accenna un bacio. Le imposte crollano sotto

il fuoco delle domande. E le artiglierie in tivu
una ad una apparecchiate. Tornano a sparare.

From The Parliament of love

The lower house starts shouting. A rocket
ignites in the courtyard of the new millennium.
A comet calls a gathering. Intent on reopening
the parliament of love, closed for so long.

Ever since the Twentieth Century ended. Ever since
the children call from every blind window. Since
every lager of Germany Italy and Albania. For as long
as they have not spoken. While the fleshless

faces of Giorgio and Giovanna return to mind.
They return to face the yellow walls that evil
kicked down. If the windows open and the girl
beckons for a kiss. The shutters collapse beneath

the fire of questions. And the artillery pieces on T.V.
are set one by one. They begin shooting again.

La camera alta quasi tocca il cielo. Dalla plastica
verde piove l’eternità. Come l’amianto ingessato
piove la democrazia del male. Piove sempre perché
lassù gli yankee d’America muovono pietre di luna.

Ma torna persino il tempo in cui ci amammo
per opposte tifoserie. Se il Novecento è il grande
vecchio ora sciancato. Buono a essere cucinato.
Volerete in noi se vi spoglierete del vostro orgoglio.

Fummo soldati bambini in terre di Albania. E voi
le bambine impietrite in fronte alla tivu. In pace sì
perché finissero le guerre nel sussidiario. Faceste
pire di libri e fuoco. E obiettori finimmo il testo

a scuola sempre paludato. Ora votiamo una
mozione d’ascolto. In sella a questo millennio.

The upper house almost touches the sky. From green
plastic rains eternity. Like plastered asbestos rains
down the democracy of evil. It always rains because
up there the Yanks of America move moon stones.

But even the time when we loved each other through
opposing fans returns. If the Twentieth Century
is the great old man, now lame. Good to cook.
You will fly within us if you cast off your pride.

We were kid soldiers in the lands of Albania. And you
the girls turned to stone in front of the T.V. Yes in peace
so that the wars could end in the textbooks. You built
pyres of books and fire. And as objectors we finished the text

that at school was always so wordy. Now we propose
a motion to listen. In the seat of a new millennium.



Meditazioni per Edipo Re a Fiesole

…………………………………………………..per Antonio Crivelli


Che cosa cerchi nel Tempio etrusco?
Prima di ogni scena. Prima di ogni
complesso. Madre e padre presidiano
insieme a te. Edipi travestiti già nel seme.

Nascono. Inesorabile sorge la comunità
fantasma. Le stele con cuori di pietra
serena. Segnano il Tempo della Legge.
Chiamano dalle rovine le figure di pietra.

Distrutto il Tempio. Tornano ancora
gli Dei di pietra? Essere in volti emersi
dal nulla. Immobili urlare il nostro dolore.
Non poter levare due braccia al cielo.



Che cosa cerchi nel Teatro greco?
Di fronte alla Porta di Tebe attendere
di vedere. Lo scheletro spalancato. La sorte
inesorabile. Edipi nelle terracotte corrose.

Le ante. I due battenti gettano la tragedia
nel labirinto iniquo degli affetti. Esiste
il Presente? Vi piove il Passato. Vi piove
il Futuro. Nel fango i volti parlano. Il Coro.

La Sfinge Bianca. Non esiste alcuno scampo.
Aperta la Porta attendere tutti. Il Presente
diventa la pietra rossa. Nel sasso pietrificati
noi che il sangue ci macchia per sempre.



Che cosa cerchi nelle Terme romane?
Accade nelle vasche ai nostri corpi. Eppure
evaporare. Edipi disfarsi via dalla pietra.
Farsi marmo bianco e rosso. Lavarsi da colpa?

Levigati attendere di esalarsi tutti nel Futuro.
L’esilio. La comunità d’inermi. Mentre stanno
padre madre nel cuore della Legge. Finalmente
riunita la famiglia. Cipressi e pendici sassose.

È il luogo dove vagasti? Di fronte al desco
mangiare. Tre archi in piedi. Tre orbite vuote.
Esiste la speranza? Edipi in cecità vagando.
Mentre il Tempo non assolve. Getta il muro.



Che cosa cerchi del mondo in Piazza Mino?
Figure crivellate dagli spari. Il destino è ancora
immobile. Mentre non sparano più sulle colline
dove il fronte passava. Ma sparano dalle ombre.

Edipi non potersi sottrarci. Tutti li abbiamo
nel cuore. Tutti Edipi dentro la folla assiepata
negli affetti. Ora corpo a corpo un’altra peste
intraprende il destino. Più dura. Ci fa di bronzo.

Uccidiamo padre e madre. Salvarli da inutile dolore.
Per essere noi soltanto i condannati a cadere.
Il Tempo non mitiga la colpa. Si ripete di collina
in collina. Neppure ci illude fuggire dal Mondo.

Meditations on Oedipus Rex at Fiesole

………………………………………………………..for Antonio Crivelli

What do you seek in the Etruscan Temple?
Before any scene. Before any complex.
Mother and father preside together with you.
As Oedipi camouflaged already in the seed.

They are born. Inexorably arises the phantom
community. The stelae with hearts of serene
stone. Now they mark the Time of the Law.
The figures of stone call out from the ruins.

The Temple is destroyed. Will the Gods
of stone return yet? To be in faces come from
nothing. Motionless screaming our pain.
Unable to lift two arms to the sky.



What do you seek in the Greek Theatre?
Before the Gate of Thebes waiting to see.
The skeleton spreadeagled. Inexorable
fate. Oedipi in their corroded terracotta.

The shutters. Two panels fling tragedy into
a vicious labyrinth of affections. Does the Present
exist? There Past rains down. There Future rains
down. In the mud the faces speak. Chorus.

Bianca the white Sphinx. From here no escape
exists. When the Gate is open all must wait.
The Present becomes the red stone. Petrified
into rock, we whom the blood stains forever.



What do you seek in the Roman Baths?
It happens to your bodies in the pools. Yet it
evaporates. As Oedipi loosening from the stone.
Becoming red-white marble. Washing guilt away?

Smoothed all waiting to exhale in the Future. Exile.
The community of the helpless. While mother
and father stand in the heart of the Law. Finally
the family reunited. Cypresses and rocky slopes.

Is it the place where you wandered? At the lunch table
eating. Three arches standing. Three orbits empty.
Does hope exist? Oedipi in blindness wandering.
While Time does not absolve. It throws down the wall.



What do you seek of the World in Piazza Mino?
Figures riddled with bullet-holes. Destiny is still
motionless. While they fire no more from the hills
where the front went through. But from the shadows.

Oedipi we cannot escape. We all have them
within the heart. All Oedipi in the crowd thirsting
in affections. Now destiny embarks body by body
on another plague. Harder. It bronzes us.

We kill father and mother. Saving them from useless pain.
To be ourselves the only ones condemned to the fall.
Time does not mitigate guilt. It repeats from hill
to hill. We can pretend to flee the world no longer.



Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi was born in Pistoia, in western Tuscany, in 1961 and has lived in Florence since 1992. He has published four collections of poetry – Magnificat (1996), Jacquerie (2000), Patricidio [Parricide] (2005) and Rosso degli affetti [Red of affections] (2008) – which have increasingly focused on the frailty of the individual within violent cycles of history. His fifth collection, Il bene cucito al bene [Good stitched to good] is forthcoming. The Oedipus sequence published in this issue was written to complement sculptures by Antonio Crivelli, commissioned for a staging of Oedipus Rex in the Roman theatre at Fiesole in 2011. Paolo has translated Frank O’Hara and Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) into Italian and has rediscovered and re-published numerous works of the poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), whose archive he oversees. Paolo is Artistic Director of the Accademia Pistoiese del Ceppo, a literary academy in Pistoia, and chairs the Premio Letterario Internazionale Ceppo Pistoia, awarded since 1956. For information:

Theodore Ell is co-editor of Contrappasso Magazine and an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney.

Farewell, Giorgio Orelli (1921-2013) – Translations from Issue #3, by Marco Sonzogni

Photo © Theodore Ell

Photo © Theodore Ell

Poetry Editor’s note: Contrappasso bids a sad farewell to Giorgio Orelli, who passed away this morning at the age of 92. Below are the five poems of Orelli’s that appeared in Issue 3, translated by Marco Sonzogni. The original Italian version of each poem appears first, followed by its translation in blue. 


Quelle farfalle brune,
le più comuni forse del mondo,
immancabili ai nostri picnic
d’agosto quando vagano come stordite dal fiume,
quasi m’hanno sfiorato
sulla collina, zelante drappello
e cauto, che, non più vagando, ha raggiunto
i fiori lilla su gambi lunghi e lì,
perfettamente combaciando le ali,
ognuna su un fiore pareva
suggere il paradiso:

né tu né io quest’anno ci saremmo
ricordati del nostro anniversario
se d’improvviso riaprendosi, prima
di volar via, l’una non avesse,
e l’altra e l’altra, un attimo, mostrato
un 8 limpidissimo, arancione.

(Il collo dell’anitra, 2001)

Those brown butterflies,
the most common in the world perhaps,
guaranteed at our August
picnics, when they wander as if dazed by the river,
they’ve almost touched me
on the hill, a diligent and careful
squad which, no longer wandering, has reached
the tall lilac flowers and there,
joining their wings perfectly,
each one on a flower seemed
to suck on paradise:

this year neither you nor I would have
remembered our anniversary
had not one, and then another and yet another,
shown for a moment, opening
all of a sudden before flying away,
the clearest, orange, 8.

(The Duck’s Neck, 2011)



Felinamente in giallo
viscido di salamandra
tra siepe e asfalto: neanche la faccia
gli ho visto al ragazzo che in bici
quasi m’investe allo svolto.
Tanto fitto pioveva e di traverso
che alle vacche vicino al liceo
l’anima s’annegrava:
in gruppo, stralunate,
disprezzavano l’erba,
mute muggivano al cielo.

(Spiracoli, 1989)

In autumn

Catlike in the salamander’s
slimy yellow
between the hedge and the tarmac: I didn’t even
see the face of the boy who
almost ran over me at the bend with his bike.
The rain was hosing down sideways
so much that it darkened the mood of the cows
near the high school:
in groups, dazed,
they forsook the grass,
and lowed miserably at the sky.

(Outlines, 1989)


Per Agostino

Per noi silenziosi
e freddi nelle mani che toccano
le canne del fucile chiamerà
la luna il tasso fuori della tana?
Ora sono fuggiti gli scoiattoli
che si rincorrevano a coppie sui pini:
la sera che ascoltiamo le canzoni
spegnersi tra le stalle dove crepita
acre la nostra infanzia,
forse gloriosamente
muore l’estate.
Ai boschi bruni, alle pietre più grige
ci riconosciremmo: anticamente
fedeli come gli occhi degli amici.
E sarà il tempo che le pernici
desteranno col loro canto i pascoli.

(L’ora del tempo, 1962)

For Agostino

As we wait, silent
and our hands cold on the barrel
of the rifle will the moon
bring the badger out of his sett?
Now the squirrels have gone
away in pairs among the pine trees:
the evening when we listen to songs
fades among the stables where our acrid
childhood rustles away,
perhaps the summer ends
In the brown woods, in the greyer stones
we will find ourselves: as in times past
faithful like the eyes of friends.
And it will be the time when the partridges’
calls awaken the pastures.

(The Instant of Time, 1962)



Per una costa già cara ai fagiani
giungo dove non ronzano i beati,
su un gran piano venato d’acque appena
rotte, dai margini qua e là
fioriti di piumini come neve.
Una nebbia s’insinua, allontana le vette.
Un’ansia mi caccia.
Mi fermo d’improvviso tra i calcestri
biancheggianti del passo, davanti
a uccelli dal collo di pietra.
.                                                        .Allo sparo
gallinette si levano, dileguano
nella nebbia che ora punge la memoria.

(L’ora del tempo, 1962)


Along a slope already familiar to the pheasants
I come to where the fortunate don’t hang around,
on a wide plain veined by newly emerged
streams, their banks scattered
with flowers like snow-flakes.
Fog creeps in, distances the mountaintops.
An anxiety hunts me.
I stop suddenly among the pale
crushed stones of the pass, in front of
stony-necked birds.
.                                                               .At my shot
the moorhens take flight, disappear
into the fog that now stings my memory.

(The Instant of Time, 1962)


Carnevale a Prato Leventina

È questa la Domenica Disfatta,
senza un grido né un volo dagli strani
squarci del cielo.
.                                     .Ma le lepri
sui prati nevicati sono corse
invisibili, restano dell’orgia
silenziosa i discreti disegni.

I ragazzi nascosti nei vecchi
che hanno teste pesanti e lievi gobbe
entrano taciturni nelle case
dopocena: salutano con gesti
.                         .Li seguo di lontano,
mentre affondano dolci nella neve.

(L’ora del tempo, 1962)

Carnival at Prato Leventina

This is Black Sunday,
no cry nor a flutter in the strange
breaks in the sky.
.                                      .But on the snowy meadows
the hares have run off
unseen, the discreet traces
of their silent orgy linger on.

The young lads now hidden in old men
with heavy heads and bent backs
go home silently
after dinner: they exchange resigned
.                     .I follow them from far away,
as they sink softly into the snow.

(The Instant of Time, 1962)



Giorgio Orelli was born in 1921 in Airolo, in the Canton of Ticino in Switzerland. From his debut (Né bianco né viola, 1944) he was regarded as a significant voice among contemporary poets writing in Italian. After attending university at Freiburg, where he was a student of Gianfranco Contini, Orelli taught Italian literature and history at the Scuola Cantonale di Commercio in Bellinzona and lectured at several Swiss and Italian universities. A published short story writer (Un giorno della vita, 1960), literary critic (from Accertamenti verbali in 1978 to La qualità del senso in 2012) and translator, most notably of Goethe’s poetry (Poesie, 1974), Orelli was the author of several collections of poems: L’ora del tempo (1962), a selection of his work from his 20s to his 40s; Sinopie (1977); Spiracoli (1989); Il collo dell’anitra (2001). Orelli’s new book, L’orlo della vita, will be published soon. For his poetry, widely translated into French and German, Orelli received many awards, including the Gran Premio Schiller in Switzerland (1998) and the Premio Bagutta in Italy (2002).

Marco Sonzogni (born in 1971) lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He holds degrees from the University of Pavia (Almo Collegio Borromeo), University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Auckland. He is a widely published and award-winning editor, poet and literary translator, now Senior Lecturer in Italian with the School of Languages and Cultures at Victoria University of Wellington, where is also the Director of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation. His literary translation projects include Swiss-Italian poets (Oliver Scharpf, Alberto Nessi, Pietro De Marchi, Fabiano Alborghetti, Giorgio Orelli), New Zealand poets, and the collected poems of Seamus Heaney (Meridiano). Marco wishes to thank Giorgio Orelli for his kindness and generosity, and Pietro De Marchi and Bob Lowe for their support and contribution.

from Issue #2: Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi (III)

Photo (CC) Kitty Terwolbeck @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Kitty Terwolbeck @ Flickr


Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi’s poetry was translated from Italian into English by Theodore Ell. Scroll down to read “Il soldato Beslan” (“Beslan the soldier”) in both languages.


Il soldato Beslan

L­a strada a piedi da scuola fino a casa. Nel primo
giorno del liceo. La bicicletta la portiamo a mano.
La canna da donna e la rete arcobaleno sopra i raggi
d’acciaio. Siamo già amici ma in due ora siamo

compagni di banco. Tu giochi al pallone dopo la scuola
fino a tenere la “Commedia” testo e note in evidenza.
Rivedere la bicicletta che porta dal Corso alberato
alla Fortezza delle Armi. Ci confondono i morti.

Tutto ci confonde la memoria. Siamo nell’Aldilà 
della stessa età. Figli dei padri. Padri dei nonni. Tutti
nonni dei figli. Siamo uno soltanto. Un solo grande
casco dagli occhi azzurri. Il nostro trofeo di guerra.

Stare sul giradischi Scusi lei mi ama o no? Riempire
la stanza di “In un grande magazzino una volta al mese”.
Poter essere ancora questa canzone degli anni settanta.
Anche se ora avanzi lento vestito da soldato Beslan

che tiene un bambino fra le braccia. Ha la testa rasata
ma ti somiglia. Abbi pietà della nostra vita diversa.
Mentre guardi e porgi il bambino verso noi. Potrebbe
essere noi. Essere qualunque bene entrato dentro

la vita condivisa. Soldato Beslan che presìdi la vita
per tenere l’adolescenza al di qua dal precipizio.
Per trovare insieme il grande salvataggio estremo.
Mentre tieni la bicicletta che se ne va da sola e pare una

bianca sposa. Se e quando si accompagna l’amicizia
all’altare. Capire perché si abbandonano gli amici
inattesi dentro l’orizzonte bucato. Se desideriamo
essere madri per gestire figli. La trincea del banco.

Dopo essere interrogati. Pile di libri e appunti sparsi.
Nell’angolo estremo della classe. Il solo superstite.
Lo stesso cuore due labbra un fegato due braccia
tengono il bambino implacato. Ora che sei diventato

il maestro impiegato. Insegni in una classe vuota.
La mente vuole ricreare la bici. Ma è diversa la vita.
I quadri chiedono pelle trasparente. La luce bianca
da filtrare. Un disco di Battisti per nostro Maggio cantare.

Nei pomeriggi di pioggia e di compiti dopo il primo
giorno. Per quale desiderio sei dentro quella foto
sui giornali del mondo? Sei ancora dentro il maestro
che volevi diventare? Senza frontiere. Senza famiglia

frugare dentro la Storia. Per credere inermi che sia
possibile ricordare. Per il male rosso e involontario
che abbiamo senza pensare. Se mettiamo il silenzio
ai sentimenti. Spalancati davanti all’eterno pensare

al tempo infinito. E ci troviamo a un passo dalla morte
impreparati. Eroi senza avere il tempo di scegliere
che cos’era necessario. Gregari nel gioco del pallone.
Scartare l’amore per scartare davanti all’avversario.


Beslan the soldier

On foot from school the road home. On the first day
of high school. We take his bike by hand. The old lady
crossbar and the rainbow chain over the steel spokes.
Already we are friends but now we are truly

desk mates. You play football after school until
underlining Dante’s “Commedia” text and notes.
Seeing again the bike that carries you from the tree-
lined corso to the Army Fortress. The dead confuse us.

Memory confuses everything within us. We are in the
Hereafter of the same age. Children of fathers. Fathers
of grandfathers. All grandfathers of sons. We are one
alone. A single great helmet with blue eyes. A war trophy.

Putting on the record player “Madam do you love me or not?”.
Filling the room with “In a big store once a month”.
It could be once again this same song from the seventies.
Even if you come forward dressed as Beslan the soldier

holding a child in his arms. He has a shaved head
but he looks like you. Have pity on our different life.
As you gaze and set the child down near to us.
He could be us. Whatever good entered into a shared

life. Beslan the soldier who watches over our life 
holding back adolescence on this side of the abyss.
Finding together the great extreme salvation. While you
hold on to the bike moving off by itself. A white bride. 

When and if friendship is accompanied to the altar.
Knowing why unexpected friends abandon each other
within the horizon full of holes. If we desire to become
mothers to bring up sons. The battle trench of that desk.

After the teacher’s questions. Piles of books and scattered
notes. In the far corner of the classroom. The lone
survivor. The same heart two lips a liver two arms hold
the anguished child. Now you have been employed

as a teacher. You teach in an empty classroom. The mind
hopes to remake that bike. But life is totally different.
The pictures ask for a transparent skin. A white light
to filter in. A disco of Battisti for our May singing.

In the afternoons of rain and homework after living
the first day. Through what desire are you in that photo
in the world’s newspapers? Inside are you still the teacher
you wanted to become? Without borders. Without family

exploring through History. Believing defenceless
it’s possible to remember. For the red involuntary
evil we have without thinking. If we silence
our feelings. Spread out eternity thinking of infinite

time. Unready we find ourselves one step away
from death. Heroes without having time to choose
what was necessary. Playing ball supporting each other.
Dribbling around love as you dribble around another.



Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi was born in Pistoia, in western Tuscany, in 1961 and has lived in Florence since 1992. He has published four collections of poetry – Magnificat (1996), Jacquerie (2000), Patricidio [Parricide] (2005) and Rosso degli affetti [Red of affections] (2008) – which have increasingly focused on the frailty of the individual within violent cycles of history. Paolo has translated Frank O’Hara and Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) into Italian and has rediscovered and re-published numerous works of the poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), whose archive he oversees. Paolo is Artistic Director of the Accademia Pistoiese del Ceppo, a literary academy in Pistoia, and chairs the Premio Letterario Internazionale Ceppo Pistoia, awarded since 1956. For information:

from Issue #2: Poetry by Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi (II)

Photo (CC) Chris_Parfitt @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Chris_Parfitt @ Flickr


Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi’s poetry was translated from Italian into English by Theodore Ell. Scroll down to read selections from Atlante senza nome del giardino (Atlas of the Nameless Garden) in both languages.


Da Atlante senza nome del giardino

Io non posso dire quale giardino sia mio
o tuo. E in questo atlante senza nome
del giardino siamo forse già stati affidati
alle cure dei posteri. Ma io conosco il giardino

che mio padre teneva intatto con gli iris
ciascuno separato in gruppi blu e bianche
schiere. Quando levandosi uno a primavera
più giallo del sole. Nel bianco si sentiva

il fremito dell’età giovane. Ed io sire nell’oro
sfilavo fra i bianchi alfieri con gli elmetti.
Padre non estirpare da quella schiera l’iris
giallo. Non far sì che ciascuno sia tra sé

e sé intollerante. Lascia che io adorando
lo veda in uno stuolo beato fatto di brina.
Il giardino se fiorisce non ha male. Il tuo
bene fa sbocciare ora lo stelo dell’iris.


Iris come se piovesse. Una boscaglia di spade
di Toledo luccicanti. Iris che si stringono fra
l’erba che li infesta. Iris allineati uno accanto
all’altro come in un campo dove ci furono

i soldati a riposare nella morte. Corpi trafitti
da iris d’acqua di cenere di piombo. Come
tante lance mi persi un giorno in un ossario
azzurro chiaro. Come tante tibie fiorite erano

i compagni che stavano in campo di prigionia.
Allora mi appartavo dietro la casa nel garage
mentre ibridando per steli e steli e per semi
e semi. Volevo ottenere l’iris che fosse rosso

come la stella. E mescolando i geni e i gameti
e i pistilli. Io non ricordo più che cosa feci
per ridarvi un cuore rosso e palpitante. Io sì
ti ridetti vita campo dei miei compagni morti.


Gli iris per passare in pace. Saranno stati
diecimila con le bandiere color degli iris.
Come tanti guerrieri che in spalla non tenevano
fucili ma iris di sette colori. Così trapassando

nell’Aldilà vedremo le stesse scene di ora.
Solo che i fiori si sprecheranno. Ma io non so
se coltivando iris dovunque. In conche
bidoni vasche tu volessi rendere omaggio

alla madre che in cielo ti vedeva. Quando
in una cosmogonia precoce rendevi grazie
ad Iside. Era il nome di tua madre. Ma piantando
gli iris forse tu volevi ritrovare il suo corpo

disperso. Iris gialli il fegato. Iris d’arancio
il pancreas. Iris blu i polmoni. Iris verdi le vene.
Iris viola le labbra. Iris d’indaco i suoi occhi.
Padre padre padre nel giardino innamorato.


From Atlas of the nameless garden

I cannot tell any more which garden is mine
or yours. And in this atlas of the nameless
garden maybe we have already been entrusted
to the care of our descendents. But I know

the garden that my father held together
with irises each one separated into blue groups
and white ranks. When in spring one rose which
was more yellow than sunlight. In the whiteness

you felt the quiver of youth. I was sire in the gold
marching between the white helmeted ensigns.
Father do not uproot the golden iris from
that rank. Do not make each one intolerant

among its own kind. Let it be so that adoring
I see it in a blessed crowd. Made of frost.
If it flowers the garden holds no evil. Now
your good makes the stem of the iris blossom.


Irises as though it rained them. A wood of Toledo
swords glittering. Irises that crowd together
against the infesting grass. Irises lined up one
beside the other as in a field where soldiers

have rested in death. Bodies run through
by irises of water of ashes of lead. One day
as among so many lances I got lost in a clear
blue ossuary. As so many flowering shinbones

were the dear friends in the prison camp. So I
withdrew behind my house into the garage while
crossbreeding stem by stem and seed by seed.
I wanted to make the iris that was as deeply red

as the star. And mixing the genes and the gametes
and the pistils. I no longer remember what I did
to give you back a red and beating heart. I really did
restore you to life. Field of my dead dear friends.


Irises to pass in peace. They would have been
ten thousand with the flag the colour of irises.
Like so many warriors who shouldered not rifles
but irises in seven colours. As we pass into

the Hereafter we shall see the very same scenes.
Only the flowers will be wasted. But I don’t
know if planting irises everywhere. In pots tubs
tanks you wanted to pay tribute to your mother

who watched you from heaven. When in an early
cosmogony you paid homage to the goddess Isis.
It was your mother’s name. But in planting irises
maybe you hoped to rediscover her body lost

among them. Yellow irises liver. Orange irises
pancreas. Blue irises lungs. Green irises veins.
Violet irises lips. Indigo irises her eyes.
Father father father in the garden in love.



Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi was born in Pistoia, in western Tuscany, in 1961 and has lived in Florence since 1992. He has published four collections of poetry – Magnificat (1996), Jacquerie (2000), Patricidio [Parricide] (2005) and Rosso degli affetti [Red of affections] (2008) – which have increasingly focused on the frailty of the individual within violent cycles of history. Paolo has translated Frank O’Hara and Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) into Italian and has rediscovered and re-published numerous works of the poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), whose archive he oversees. Paolo is Artistic Director of the Accademia Pistoiese del Ceppo, a literary academy in Pistoia, and chairs the Premio Letterario Internazionale Ceppo Pistoia, awarded since 1956. For information:

from Issue #2: Poetry by Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi (I)

Photo (CC) Anthony Quintano @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Anthony Quintano @ Flickr


“Patricidio a New York” (“Parricide in New York”) was translated from Italian into English by Theodore Ell. Scroll down to read the poem in both languages.


Patricidio a New York

Io non so cosa cadde quel giorno dalle Torri Gemelle
dentro me. Avevo appena ricevuto i risultati e quando
caddero le Torri ero già caduto nelle cartelle delle analisi.
Così seppi che c’era oltre di me un altro che cadeva
cadeva come i coriandoli a Carnevale. Da un carro
altissimo. Quando avrò il funerale voglio salire
su un carro. Sbriciolarmi sui passanti. Sentire
le urla di chi vuol restare intangibile. Io non so
se quel giorno davanti alla tivu ho pianto più
per me o per i mille coriandoli che vedevo cadere
giù. Cadevano i progetti e i sogni. Da allora
vivo murato nel mio silenzio. Il canto è finito
per sempre. Con quale parola può rimare il dolore.
Con quale speranza si aprono gli occhi. Io non so
cosa cadde quel giorno né chi. Di sicuro dovetti
sbiancare di fronte al dottore. Un giovane mite
nel camice bianco. Si-può-curare. Ma come si può
curare l’adolescenza mai cresciuta ed il desiderio
di gettarsi nelle braccia di tutto il mondo. Non ricordo
altro dell’11 settembre tranne il rumore lontano
delle edizioni speciali del tg. E un senso di pace
come quando la nave affonda col carico di umanità
che possedeva. Il canto non ci salverà. Ma finirà
un giorno la strage che è diventato il mio cuore.


Parricide in New York

I don’t know what fell from the Twin Towers on that day
inside me. I had just received the results and when the Towers fell
I had already fallen into the sheets of analysis. Thus I knew
that beyond me there was another who fell down
like confetti at Carnevale. From a big high
wagon. When my funeral comes I want to rise
on to a wagon. Scatter myself on those passing. Hear
the screams of those who wish to stay untouchable. On that day
I don’t know if in front of the TV I cried more for myself
or for the thousands of confetti I saw falling
down. Plans and dreams fell. Since then
I have lived walled up in my silence. The poem
has finished forever. What word can rhyme with pain.
What hope can still open eyes. I don’t know on that day
what fell nor who. Certainly I must have turned pale
in front of the doctor. A kind young man in a white coat.
It-can-be-treated. But how does one cure an adolescence
that never grew up and the desire to throw oneself
into the arms of the world. I remember nothing else
of the 11th of September except the distant sound
of the special editions of the news. And a sense of peace
as when a boat goes down with the big cargo of humanity
it carried. The poem will not save us. But that day
will end the carnage that has become my heart.



Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi was born in Pistoia, in western Tuscany, in 1961 and has lived in Florence since 1992. He has published four collections of poetry – Magnificat (1996), Jacquerie (2000), Patricidio [Parricide] (2005) and Rosso degli affetti [Red of affections] (2008) – which have increasingly focused on the frailty of the individual within violent cycles of history. Paolo has translated Frank O’Hara and Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) into Italian and has rediscovered and re-published numerous works of the poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), whose archive he oversees. Paolo is Artistic Director of the Accademia Pistoiese del Ceppo, a literary academy in Pistoia, and chairs the Premio Letterario Internazionale Ceppo Pistoia, awarded since 1956. For information:

from issue #1: Poetry by Paolo Totaro


Translated by Theodore Ell


Tu sai che c’è, perchè il tuo cane corre
a cercare morselli che lui lascia
affidati al grande Moreton Bay Fig.
Lo sai, perchè se ascolti a notte piena

dalla verandah alla strada svuotata,
senti il coperchio del tuo garbage bin
che si apre e chiude col leggero fruscìo
del già rifiuto risignificato.

Una grotta nell’asciutto limestone
sulle rive del fiume Parramatta
ben ornata da edere gli è casa,
ma sopra quella roccia, comperate

all’asta, compatte altre case. Gente
altrimenti sicura che nei sogni
si sente minacciata dalle volpi
volanti e grida muta “Come back!”

Peter lascia un pochino delle cose
per i pets delle case arroccate.
Lo dice russo o forse ungherese
chi l’ha sentito e di voce sottile

e di pochissime parole accentate.
Lento di piede, solennemente
si muove come un vescovo ortodosso
odora d’incenso e forse lo è stato.

[You know he’s there, because your dog dashes
to look for titbits he leaves out
at the big Moreton Bay Fig.
You know, because if you listen deep in the night

from the verandah into the empty street,
you hear the lid of your garbage bin
opening and closing with the slight rustling
of something thrown away reacquiring meaning.

A cave in the scorched limestone
on the banks of the Parramatta river
garlanded with ivy is home to him,
but above that rock, purchased

at auction, compacted other houses. People
otherwise secure who in their dreams
feel menaced by the flying
foxes and cry out silently “Come back!”

Peter leaves a little of anything
for the pets of the unwelcoming houses.
They say he is Russian or perhaps Hungarian
the ones who have heard his soft accented voice

and not many words spoken.
Slow of step, solemnly
he moves like an orthodox bishop
redolent of incense and perhaps he was.]


Che lotta mantenersi rilevante!
Fu stato giornalista e vive ora vestito
di fuliggine nell’angolo più oscuro
del Riverview Pub. Raro sorriso

non traguarda, non ti dà a vedere
altro che due lenti tonde nere
ed un vago senso di minaccia
oltrepassata. Che lotta mantenersi

ancora vivi! E quanto più feroce
l’immagine di un se che ormai trascorre
indefinito. Infagottato, rubizzo
forse si vede chiaro acciaio

d’ironia che non perdona
e non dà trregua mentre gli altri
non vedono che un gozzo.

[What a struggle to stay relevant!
He had been a journalist and now lives coated
in grime in the darkest corner
of the Riverview Pub. He aims no

rare smiles, gives nothing away
but two black round lenses
and a vague sense of menace
overcome. What a struggle to stay

a little bit alive! And even more savage
the image of an if which now runs on
undefined. Muffled up, hearty
perhaps it is possible to see a clear steel

of irony which does not forgive
and gives no quarter while others
see nothing but a goitre.]


Curva sul trabiccolo
di legno consumato
camminava lenta
verso il rendevù

quotidiano col sole,
quando calmo sottinde
gli orizzonti spianati
di questa città pigra

senza salite o discese
e senza male né bene.
Vergine d’ogni peccato
trascinava scarpe slabbrate

già della sanvincenzo:
scialli gonne scialletti
mollemente gonfiati
dal pochissimo vento.

E non mancava eleganza
come in tutta l’antica
povera gente, di qui
o immigrata. È lo stesso,

non t’offrono pupille
ma radi sordi ‘gooday’
a te che il suo quartiere
glielo hai gentrificato.

Erano il suo comitato
due gatti, quello roscio
e quello variegato.
Li sgridava gentile

se aveva energia:
“Piccirì… ehi Pussypussypù.”
Tre passi e poi fermata
serpeggiando i codoni

l’aspettavano galanti,
occhi onesti fissati
su lei preziosa providora.
Vent’anni in Sicilia.

Venne sposa. Fu morto.
Poi anni nella fattoria
della cioccolatte Nestlé
costruita su una insenatura

del Parramatta River;
certo a volte smellava
ma dava da che vivere
a un intero quartiere.

Ai gatti parlava sempre
meno e sempre più alla mente
voci antiche, e le nuove
che non sa più decifrare.

Se ne è andata silenziosa
come è vissuta e dicono
era la casa senza bagno.
I gatti sopravvivono.

Alla morte si arriva sempre tardi.

[Bent over the cart
of eaten wood
she would walk slowly
towards the daily

rendezvous with the sun,
when it calmly underlines
the flattened horizons
of this lazy city

without rises or descents
and without evil or good.
A virgin to any wrongdoing
she shuffled in shoes

already tatty from Vinnies:
shawls skirts scarves
billowing minutely
in the very little breeze.

And she didn’t lack elegance
as with all old
poor people, from here
or immigrants. It’s the same,

they don’t offer pleading
but the odd muted ‘gooday’
to you who gentrified
their suburb on them.

Her committee was
two cats, the bastard one
and the mottled one.
She kindly scolded them

if she had the energy:
“Piccirì… ehi Pussypussypù.”
Three steps and then still
their tails snaking around

they waited for her gallantly,
honest eyes fixed
on her the precious provider.
Twenty years in Sicily.

She married. He died.
Then years in the factory
of Nestlé drinking chocolate
built on an inlet

of the Parramatta River;
sure it smelled at times
but it gave that bit of a living
to an entire suburb.

To the cats she spoke less
and less, with more ancient voices
to her mind, and new ones
she forgets how to decipher.

She went away in silence
as she lived and they say
the house had no bathroom.
The cats survive.

At death you always arrive late.]


Technique in poetry
is like undergarments.
They show
if only as an elastic band
and they spoil the mystery.
What’s seen
is evidence
for the more that’s not.
The unseen should induce
an inner grin of complicity
and maybe an upbeat downbeat
miracle of sense awakened, of a plea
that more is less in flesh and words.
More is the giving
that’s covert
but with reason:
not too much cloth not too much meter
but precise
to transport only the weight
of real flesh
not tattooed.


At the age of seventy-nine, I decided to be old. Again.
Closing the flood-gates of imagination was as easy
as gathering the next harvest of easy dreams,
or for the wet nurse licking my eyelids to make me well again.

It’s a question, she foretold, of suspending belief and interest,
of closing books, of not caring about broken light bulbs,
of twisting the memory of career into caring.
True, opening the gates to old age wants no will-power

but only a shifting of attention. Maybe from the grass
and the honey-bees and the games of children
to the slaughter of inner cells, to the stifling of easy breathing.
At the age of seventy-nine it is fitting to play one’s age,

to run less miles, to chide the wandering eye
and accept that there is no more a case for far-out
alternative destinies. It is like a broken vinyl disc
the dent, its ‘click’ commanding the same note

to repeat, the same bar, the same image to awake,
colour, taste, gesture, kinship, tree-bending.
The tiring shift of attention from Abraham to Jeremiah
and back again, with maybe even a slow-darting

across to Marx, replaces the quick grasp in a second fleeting
of the conundrum. Luckily, the explosion of flashing Lordly
words across the quiet sipping of breakfast juice
—prayers now come cheap—means that all won’t end in doubt.

 © Paolo Totaro

from Contrappasso Magazine #1, August 2012

* * * * *


PAOLO TOTARO, born in Naples, Italy, lives in Sydney and has been writing since the ’60s poetry in both English and Italian. He was Foundation Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW, a Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission, a contributor to The Bulletin, Visiting Professor at the University of Western Sydney and Pro-Chancellor and Member of Council of the University of Technology, Sydney, among other positions. His main interest has been human rights. A practising chamber musician, of late he has concentrated on poetry. He has published a novella in Italian, Storia Patria (1992) for which he won the Due Giugno Literary Prize; Collected Poems 1950-2011 (2012). He has also been published in anthologies of Italian Australian Poetry; in Two Centuries of Australian Poetry, Oxford University Press (1994), Crearta(1998), Quadrant (2013, 14), Contrappasso (2012, 2013); Le Simplegadi (2012): Water Access Only (2012),ARC/Cordite Special Book on Australian Poetry (2014) and several other. A collection of bilingual poetry about children and war is nearing completion.