Poetry made to order is a device.
The device maker can produce many
(only tiring himself out from the manual labor).
The subject can, at times, be ironic:
the device always is.
Gone are the days when I, a voracious economizer,
would spend everything, investing my money (a lot of it,
since semen was my currency, and I always had an erection)
buying up greatly undervalued sectors
that would turn a profit some two or three centuries hence.
I was Ptolemaic (being just a kid)
and counted eternity, you guessed it, in centuries.
I considered the earth the center of the universe,
and poetry the center of the world.
This was all very fine and logical.
Besides, what reason did I have not to believe
that everyone was not like me?
Then, in fact, they all proved to be better than me,
and I turned out to belong to an inferior race.
I returned the compliment
and realized I no longer wanted to write poetry. Now, however,
now that the vocation is gone
—but not life, not life—
now that inspiration, when it comes, does not yield any verse—
please, I want you all to know that I’m here, ready
to provide poetry made to order: devices.*
*Even explosive one. (Author’s footnote.)
A boy in elementary school,
in the Thousandth Grade, writes to you:
a certain Mr. Homais came to see us,
saying he was You.
We believed him,
but with us was an unhappy boy
who did nothing but masturbate
night and day, even exposing himself
in front of children big and small. Well . . .
This Mr. Homais, dear God, imitated You in every detail:
he wore a fine dark wool suit, with waistcoat
silk shirt and blue tie;
he came from Lyon or Cologne, I forget which
And he kept telling us about tomorrow
But with us was that fool who said that in fact
Your name was Axel . . .
And all this a Long Time Ago.
deliver us from the thought of tomorrow.
It was Tomorrow you told us about through Mr. Homais.
But now we only want to live like the degenerate fool
who followed his Axel
who was also the Devil: he was too beautiful to be only You.
He lived on independent means but didn’t plan for the future.
He was poor but didn’t economize.
He was pure as an angel but wasn’t respectable.
He was unhappy and exploited but had no hope.
the idea of power wouldn’t exist without the idea of tomorrow;
on top of this, without tomorrow, conscience would have no justification.
let us live like the birds in the sky and the lilies of the fields.
One of Many Epilogues
Hey, Ninarieddo, remember that dream,
the one we talked about so many times . . . ?
I was in my car, heading off alone, the seat
beside me empty, and you were running after me;
when you reached the still half-open door,
anxious and stubbornly running, you cried out
with a childish sort of whine in your voice:
“Hey, Paolo, can you take me with you? Will you pay my way?”
It was the journey of life, and only in a dream
could you drop your guard and ask me for something.
You know perfectly well that this dream belongs to reality,
and that it wasn’t a dreamed Ninetto who said those words.
In fact you blush when we talk about it.
Last night in Arezzo, in the silence of the night,
when the guard was locking the gate with a chain
behind you, and you were about to disappear,
with your sudden, funny smile, you said: “Thanks!”
Thanks, Ninè? It’s the first time you ever said that to me.
And in fact you realized this and corrected yourself, without losing face
(something you’re a master at), saying:
“Thanks for the ride.” The journey you wanted me
to pay for was, I repeat, the journey of life;
and it was in that dream some three, four years ago that I decided
what my equivocal love of freedom was opposed to.
If you now thank me for the ride, when
you’re in the slammer, my God . . . In fear
I board a plane for a faraway place. My thirst for our life is unquenchable,
because something unique in all the world will never run dry.
September 2, 1969
Their cheeks were fresh and tender
and kissed perhaps for the first time.
Seen from behind, when they turned around
to go back to their tender group, they were more grown-up,
overcoats covering their light trousers. Their poverty
forgets that it’s winter and cold. Their legs slightly bowed,
collars threadbare, just like their older brothers,
already discredited citizens. For a few more years they will
remain priceless; nothing in the world can humble
those who cannot be judged. However naturally
and incredibly they do it, they offer themselves to life;
and life demands them in turn. They are so ready for it!
They return the kisses, tasting the novelty.
Then they leave, as unruffled as they had come.
But since they are still trustful of the life that loves them,
they make sincere promises, planning a promising future
of embraces and even kisses. If the revolution were ever
to come, who but they would bring it? Tell them so: they are
ready, all in the same way, just as they kiss and embrace
and have the same smell in their cheeks.
But their trust in the world shall not be what triumphs.
It must remain shunned by the world.
The Whores’ Road
A Boy God who knows the Ma-mul* sings
on the mountaintops near low, warm clouds
He shall find you in a place where gather
the clients of whores who’ve survived their owners
Scattered fires, clouds low but distant on a horizon
dotted with the lights of houses
At that moment even the whores keep quiet and still
as though meditating or from who knows what atavistic melancholy
beside a lighted lamp between red wallpaper
and an unmade bed gleaming white in a room
with the miserable darkness lapping in the doorway
The clients speak softly, and if one of them laughs or shouts,
everyone looks at him as though rapt in the song of the crickets
teeming on the nearby horizon beyond the periphery
on who knows what night in 1962 or ’63; and whoever sings to God
his paternal song, born in the heart of the Ma-mul
on the lost plateaus above the forests
where no roads pass, brings a sign of the cosmos
all the way to this place: the Boy God comes out of a shack,
breaks away from his companions; he is nothing, he has only curls.
But across the millennia—before death—
this marks a date in the course of being
even if nobody celebrates or notices it.
Why would a Boy God meet you
along the roads of the cosmos that pass between the shacks
of a village of whores under great ancient walls?
Easy: he comes to be as a mother to you.
*A sacred oral tradition of the Kota population of India. But it could also be any
other sacred tradition. (Author’s note.)
Lines from the Testament
You have to be very strong
to love solitude; you need good legs
and uncommon stamina; you can’t easily
catch cold, flu, or sore throat; you can’t be afraid
of muggers or murderers; if you have to walk
all afternoon or even all evening
you must know how to do this without noticing; there’s nowhere to sit,
especially in winter; the wind blows over the wet grass
and there are big rocks, wet and muddy, amidst the garbage;
there’s really no comfort at all, no doubt about that,
except in the fact that you’ve got a whole day and a night ahead of you,
with no obligations or constraints of any sort.
Sex is a pretext. No matter how many encounters you may have
—and even in winter, in the windswept streets,
between garbage heaps against a background of buildings,
there are many—they are only moments of loneliness;
the warmer, more alive the gentle body
that anoints you with semen and then leaves,
the colder and deadlier the beloved desert around you;
this is what fills you with joy like a miraculous wind,
not the innocent smile or troubled arrogance
of the one who leaves when it’s over; he takes his outrageously youthful
youth away with him, and there’s something inhuman in this,
for he leaves no trace, or rather, he leaves only one trace,
always the same trace, no matter the season.
A boy at the time of his first loves
is nothing if not the world’s fertility.
The world arrives with him, appears and disappears
like a changing form. Things remain whole,
and you can comb half the city, but you won’t find him again;
the act is over, its repetition a rite. Thus
the loneliness is all the greater if there is a whole crowd,
each awaiting his turn; this increases the number of disappearances—
the leaving and running away—and each next encounter hangs over the present one
like an obligation, a sacrifice to perform to the death wish.
As you grow older, however, fatigue begins to set in,
especially right after suppertime, though nothing
has changed for you; you very nearly cry out or weep at the slightest thing,
which would be terrible if it wasn’t just fatigue
and perhaps a little hunger. Terrible because it would mean
that your desire for solitude could no longer be satisfied,
and what would await you then, if what is not considered solitude
is the real solitude, the kind you cannot accept?
No supper or lunch or worldly satisfaction
can compare to an endless walk down impoverished streets,
where you need to be wretched and strong, a brother to dogs.
The Poetry of Tradition
O unlucky generation!
What will happen tomorrow, if this ruling class—
when first learning the ropes
they didn’t know the poetry of tradition
it was an unhappy experience for them, because without
a realistic smile, it remained inaccessible to them
and even with what little they did know about it, they had to show
that yes, they wanted to know it, but from a distance, from the sidelines.
O unlucky generation!
In the winter of ’70 you wore outlandish overcoats and shawls
and you became spoiled—
who taught you not to feel inferior?—
you repressed your divinely childish uncertainties—
he who is not aggressive is an enemy of the people! Ah!
Books, old books, passed before your eyes
like the possessions of an old enemy;
you felt obliged not to give in
to a beauty born of forgotten injustices;
deep down you were devoted to the same fine feelings
you fought off just as you fought off beauty
with a racial hatred of anything passionate;
you came into the world, which is big and yet so simple,
and you found people who laughed at tradition,
and you took that falsely ribald irony literally,
erecting youthful barriers against the dominant class of the past . . .
Youth passes quickly; O unlucky generation,
you shall reach your middle years and then old age
without having enjoyed what you had a right to enjoy,
which cannot be enjoyed without anguish and humility,
and thus you shall realize that you served the very world
against which you “carried on the struggle”:
for it was they who wanted to discredit history—their own;
it was they who wanted to make a clean sweep of the past—their own;
and you obeyed by disobeying! O unlucky generation!
That world asked its new children to help it
contradict itself, in order to go on;
and one day you shall wake up old, without any love of books or life,
perfect inhabitants of a world renewed
by its reactions and repressions—yes, yes, it’s true—
but renewed especially by you, you who rebelled
just as it, the Automaton as All, wanted you to do;
your eyes didn’t fill with tears
over a Baptistry with caporioni and apprentices
toiling from season to season,
you had no tears for Cinquecento octaves,
no tears (intellectual tears, springing from pure reason)
you didn’t know or recognize the tabernacles of your forebears,
nor the abodes of the fathers and masters, as painted by . . .
—and all those other sublime things—
you don’t give a start (or shed hot tears) at the sound
of a line by an anonymous Symbolist poet born in . . .
The class struggle nurtured you and forbade you to cry:
you spent your youth
resisting everything that wasn’t about fine feelings
and hopeless ferocity,
and if you were intellectuals,
you didn’t want to be through and through,
whereas that was your true task, among so many others.
Why this betrayal?
For love of the worker . . . But nobody asks the worker
not to be a worker through and through.
The workers didn’t cry in front of old masterpieces
but they also didn’t commit treachery leading to blackmail
and thus to unhappiness
O unlucky generation
you shall weep but shed only lifeless tears
because you may not even know how to go back
to what you never lost, since you never had it;
poor generation, as Calvinist as at the birth of the bourgeoisie,
pettily pragmatic, childishly active
you sought salvation in organization
(which can only produce more organization)
and spent the days of your youth
speaking the language of democratic bureaucracy
never once abandoning the repetition of formulas,
for the meaning of organizing cannot be put into words,
but into formulas, yes,
you’ll find yourselves wielding paternal authority, at the mercy
of the unspeakable power that wanted you to fight power,
In growing old I saw your heads fill with sorrow;
inside them swirled a muddled idea, an absolute certainty,
the presumption of heroes destined never to die—
O unfortunate children, you had within reach
a wondrous victory that didn’t exist!
In the time of Athens
the girls would laugh in the doorways of squat little houses all the same
(as in the poor quarters of Rio);
houses along avenues filled, at the time,
with the fragrance (you couldn’t remember the name) of lindens.
Evenings, as usual, were eternal
because one had to perform a whole ceremony
(go up dusty stairs to the bedrooms,
which was an ascension, and this made the girls laugh even more).
Outside, people were still up
because Athenians are great talkers, especially the men.
Mostly there was the lingering smell of linden along the broad avenues;
the girls don’t know this time of the night,
but they don’t cry over it; in fact, they laugh, laugh among themselves
Because all of life is theirs and awaits them, almost eternal
It’s a while before the lights go out;
you have a bone to pick with your sister
—disdained from birth for reasons unstated
but mysteriously kept deep in your heart—
Every family has its own story, knows the others’ stories, too;
from neighborhood to neighborhood, all of Athens
is contained in the night of one girl,
who will one day get fat, but is now in bloom, chubby-cheeked
and with hair worthy of ancient grandmothers come from inland
But nobody knows what will be,
except, perhaps, for some old beggar who doesn’t care;
or anyone who has no family or neighborhood
or is under the illusion that he does
Perhaps in distant regions connected by a hinterland
which will remain forever unknown,
or connected by the sea, the ever more diaphanous Adriatic . . .
Whatever the case, here it is a summer night,
youth is eternal,
and the skirmishes have been brought to a victorious conclusion—
the unrealized kiss,
victory of the virgin’s aridity;
he has departed, “tall and blond,” deep into the scent of the lindens.
It is time to go home,
voices continue to rise from other houses,
the neighborhood speaks with sleepless voices;
perhaps they hear frogs in the distance,
and of course a light wind blows in from the sea
It’s wartime; and if the girls laugh, it’s because they are holy—
Timor di me?
Oh, so terribly afraid;
against the windows over the darkness
But this happiness, which makes you sing in voce,
is a return from death, and who could ever laugh—
Behind, beneath the frame of blackened sky,
I’m not joking: for you have experienced
a place I’ve never explored, A VOID
IN THE COSMOS
It’s true that my earth is small
But I’ve always been happy to spin yarns
about unexplored places, as if none of it was real
But you’re actually in it, here, in voce
The moon has risen again;
the waters flow;
the world doesn’t know that it’s new, and the new day
ends against high cornices and the sky’s blackness—
Who is there, in that VOID IN THE COSMOS,
that you know and carry around in your desires?
The father is there, yes, him!
Do you think I know him? Oh, you’re so wrong;
you so naively take for granted what is not granted at all;
you base your whole argument, resumed here in song,
on this presumption, which you take for humble,
when you have no idea how proud it is
It bears the signs of the deadly will of the majority—
My cheerful eye—and I’ve never gone down to the Underworld—
a trembling shadow of Hell
And you fall into it
All you know about reality is the Adult Man,
that is, what one is supposed to know;
she, the Adult Woman, is in Hell
or in the Shadow that precedes life;
let her work her witchcraft there, let her cast her spells;
hate her, hate her, hate her;
and if you sing and nobody hears you, you smile
simply because, for the moment, you are victorious—
in voce like an avid young girl
who has yet known sweetness;
Paris sketches a low sky behind you
with a weave of black branches; a classic image;
this is the story—
You smile at the Father—
a person on whom I have no information,
whom I frequented in a dream I clearly don’t remember—
strangely, from that monster of authority
also comes sweetness
if only as a form of resignation and brief victory;
damn, I really overlooked him, so overlooked him that I know nothing about him—
what to do?
You give generously, you bestow gifts, you need to give,
but it was He that gave you your gift, like everything else;
and the gift of Nobody is Nothing;
I pretend to accept it;
thank you, I’m truly grateful;
But that weak, fleeting smile
is not shyness;
it’s the dismay—which is worse, much worse—
of having a separate body in the realms of being—
it may be a fault
if it’s not an accident: but in the place of the Other,
for me, there’s a void in the cosmos
a void in the cosmos
and from there you sing.
What was lost was celestial
and the sick soul, holy.
Nothingness was a wind that changed direction
inexplicably, but always knew where it was going.
In the nothingness adrift
capricious as a stream below
what mattered was always a story
that had somehow begun
and had to continue: your own.
Who called me there?
Every morning the tragedy of being began anew,
behind balconies first closed and then opened, as in a Church.
Whether the divine wind blew without purpose
or only for the sake of witnesses—
Then the habits, those sisters of tragedy—
The sea and its wind won all our most gushing praises—
Your “esse est percipi” encountered tremendous obstacles
it had to overcome, and every victory was minor,
and you had to start over again at once
like a plant that continually needs water.
But I, Maria, am not a brother;
I fulfill other functions, of which I’m not aware;
not that of brotherhood,
at least not the complicitous brotherhood
so like the obedience and heroic oblivousness
of men, your brothers in spite of everything, not mine.
And, terrified by the suspicion you no longer exist,
you know this, too,
and do your best to be your own mother.
You allow the little girl to be queen
to open and close the windows as in a ritual
respected by guests, servants, and a faraway audience.
And yet she, that little girl,
neglect her for only a moment
and she’ll feel lost forever—
ah, the wind blows not over motionless islands,
but over the terror of non-being,
the divine wind
that does not heal, but indeed makes one sicker and sicker;
and you try to stop her, the girl who wanted to turn back,
and there’s never a day, an hour, a moment
when the effort might cease;
you grab onto anything you can
and it makes one want to kiss you.
August 23, 1970
The grass on the hummock was almost gray, surrounded by a quarry’s
shivered tufa; gray the tufa; gray the sky;
only the shapes of the landscape were outlined in turquoise.
What happened was that, a moment earlier, my eyes had filled
suddenly with tears, an old man’s tears, at a random spot
along the motorway, from where one could see great expanses
of meadows green with a desperately lush green. It was April!
The end of April! And the avid grass was reborn in triumph, present,
strong, dense (in the sunlight that managed for a moment to illuminate it).
There I was, weeping like an old man who, after having so possessed
the world, now rediscovers it as something to which he has no more claim
and yet, freed of the obligations of this possession, finally sees it
in all its beauty, only because its beauty has reappeared . . .
Some sheep were grazing; but, as usual, their eating
was only apparently a miserable and idiotic necessity.
What, in their condition, do they know, these gray beasts
who can never abandon their joyless pasturage?
I see that muzzle—incapable of any other expression
than the air of suspicion, fear, and humility
forever stamped on them since their beginnings.
That muzzle tells me nothing. No, that muzzle tells me everything.
Damp and dry, with broad nostrils a monstrous black,
skin over the teeth, no lips, mouth tensed in a timidly
avid grimace, eye sharply drawn in shiny
blackness—a package that surely contains knowledge,
a knowledge examined in depth by my smelly forbears.
They divined it, and the reality they ascribed to it
was truly real! There was actually an exchange
of knowledge between beast and man. And those men were certain
that the knowledge of beasts was superior (as indeed it was).
And the beasts were also aware of this, and, not the least bit benign,
they busied themselves, head down, with their grazing, only occasionally
raising their heads—which contained the world
the way it was and was known to be when they alone inhabited it—
to cast a glance at the men. Their relevance
thus lasted many thousands of years. Now, however, here on the outskirts
of Rome, they are no longer relevant. Left behind and alone, their pride
is a mask: they live only waiting to vanish for good.
All that’s left is the man who sometimes stops to examine them
(the old man who weeps at the sight of a few meadows
because he’s no longer sure he’ll ever possess them again, even in a distant future).
The end of the knowledge of sheep is connected to the end
of the significance of the day: henceforth there shall be no more
days—no more years, Christmases, or Easters. Time shall no longer be shaped like an egg.
For the knowledge of sheep was the knowledge of recurrence.
Upon that knowledge millions of shrines and fortifications
were built; millions of temples and churches; whole cities;
empires of tilled fields. And the sheep kept watch
like silent elders who know the primal form of time. Now they’re suddenly
children again. Their inexplicable old age
seems like a passing phenomenon, a distant episode:
from the first one that grazed beside a hut
to these last ones grazing on the outskirts of a city,
an experience that has lost all meaning has come to an end.
And yet the distracted beasts seem to know this too:
“We used to mean so much for you, and now we no longer
mean anything. Oh, well. We’re dying. But what is beginning
for you, who are no longer obsessed with your salvation?
Where are you going, outside the circle, along that straight line?”
Why does lyric poetry exist? Because I alone,
and nobody else in my place, know what long traditions
lie behind the sorrow born of the hue of the darkening air.
The evening and the clouds together herald night and winter.
What eyes will fill with this sad light if not mine?
Last Dreams before Dying
My dear friend, every night—
lately there’s work being done near my home
there are big contraptions, fences, sentry boxes
no big deal, really, normal administrative projects
My dear friend, when going home every night, or almost,
before the motionless machines, yellow in the gentle wind,
often, in front of my building—it’s more dawn than night
My dear friend, I almost get scared when I see
walking noiselessly in the street in front of my building
when I’m returning home and by then it’s more dawn than night,
a shadow that looks like it’s moving without feet, or in slippers,
face entirely covered
It advances gray along the sidewalk
(or across the street, along the fence
protecting the work site, in silence)
Dear friend, to whom I’m writing because you’re far away,
these are not the kinds of things one tells a reader
lost in his dreams
they’re the nothings of life only friends can believe
Covered up to his eyes, he, the shadow, comes forward,
passes beside me, walks noiselessly down the street
it’s not a ghost’s sheets covering him
he’s wrapped only in wool
poor guardian of the machines groping in the silence.
Here ends the introduction.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
O eyes of mine
This image is immense, because it’s one of the last
before I die—
I alone see the melancholy desert
strewn, as we know, with miserable forms
I alone then see the light
which is nothing more than the blue of night fading
as it kindles with a hope of its own;
the same as mine, as I wander back and forth
to fight off sleep
it’s pity that dresses me in poor gray wool
up to the eyes, like a motorcyclist
or an impoverished skier. I don’t look like a specter, I am one.
The mysterious silence in my appearance
is also inside me
only my legs are alive, taking me up and down
and my eyes, which see life’s final images,
the ones I shall take with me on the already determined day
The family knows I’m here; I help put bread on the table
their pity and my own follow me
up and down the street, oh
eyes of mine that see the vast image of a little street
where the wind may blow on some nights
and on some nights there is only silence.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
O eyes of mine,
perhaps because the old are given the tasks of youth,
staying awake all night just to keep watch,
you who all my life were unable to see
now, by revelatory humiliation, you can see—
How many nights have I, as guardian, experienced
without wanting to, trying not to see
walking up and down like a ghost,
denied in my appearance the way all rapport is denied me inside
except, of course, for the pity
that dressed me and gave me the rank of guardian
with my conscience and that of my family
Thus denying myself I used to stroll about
O eyes of mine, that meanwhile watched
those nights . . . shortly before or shortly after Easter,
nights still cold which I braved by covering up
in a housecoat that hung all the way down to my feet
and a gray ski mask
Lifeless I would pass in front of the few living souls
returning home in their cars
and wander off without turning round down the sidewalk
or along the fencing that ringed the slope, towards the work site
Then I would turn back, alone again,
trying not to exist (and I would have succeeded
if not for the pity of my bosses
and my family):
and at that moment, I would see the other half of the firmament.
The future lies before me*
where I should proceed totally free.
Free, that is, from:
A freedom never before seen in history
There is no model for this free image of me
not in projections in heaven nor in projections on earth
(which are normally made in the future)
No ascensions are expected.
Pursuit of success and superfluous possessions.
Dissociation looms so powerful
that it doesn’t even need to reduce
things to earthly matters.
It’s true that I’m a layman and atheist:
but my new freedom
is so lay and atheistic
that it no longer even takes into consideration
such negative remains of religion.
Horrid, sad, dull freedom
and yet never before in human history has there been
What should I do with it? Enjoy it
(with a wicked soul that doesn’t even like to enjoy, because it has no
Like a rock, a splinter
high above a flat expanse of white cloudes
ever so lightly ruffled here and there
like a flocke thronging all the way to the horizon,
soars the snowy peak of Mount Olympus.
Slender with its bluish, hard and bony shadows
it has shredded the blanket, jutting sharply in sunlight.
Fingernail, hard shell of dead insect,
it towers humbly among the cloudes.
The final hierophany in the order of time,
cheese on macaroni,
is, ah, linguistic: I don’t believe language**
has ever been assumed to a godly sphere
and become as such an object of ritual and prayer.
The final spasm, in fact,
has been the interpretation of all reality
as hierosemy, which is even better than
as total hierophany. Once this last
consecration is also exhausted,
there is no place or person left where the Lord might be.
Death is no longer mythic.
My religious eyes
gaze up at Mount Olympus:
to say goodbye.
*The “I” speaking is not the author. (Author’s note.)
**As style, of course, not as vocabulary. (Author’s note.)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
So in the future I shall have no more tabernacles.
All the rites of my mass culture
will thus be deprived of unity (or so it seems, if unity is sacred).
I go into the future also knowing
that my history will not help me know myself.
And I shall be a slave to this.
I know only that history is an open field expanding
(this is what makes me so astonishingly free).
Oh what freedom for a man
no longer in any way a “bearer of values”
but only and exclusively a “founder of new values”!
(for which, naturally, he feels no interest or love).
I therefore shall no longer have any nostalgic views
of the world of the past
(say, the twofold unity of the sun).
Like Christ or Medea, it’s the American technician . . .
Like Christ or Medea, it’s the Red Guard . . .
diving into the fiery horizon, the West of the populations
of Australia—he experiences the realm of the dead—
then rises again in the East.
I shall not glorify farmers:
“Agriculture is the work of sin. If I devote myself to it
I shall suffer the torments of hell”*
The agricultural religion’s whining shall end.
In dehumanizing myself I shall be free, unrebellious,
and whistle all the while.
I should add that it will also be the end of ambiguity:
everything human. (Author’s note.)
only inside, completely inside entropy
do changes of value take place!
not half inside and half outside!
I shall be very vulgar, but historically so.
Moreover: the sole continuity, apparently,
between the world of Varuna and the world of Nobody
will be physicality; and therefore thetys.
This, too, destined in time to dissolve.
In the place where Venice once stood . . .
*Milarepa. (Author’s note.)
†Longhi’s Caravaggio? Or at least a little wall from Bourbon times; or, in short,
Materials for the Introduction
With the fall of the Father and Mother
no longer Parents, all other Principles shall fall.
Since, moreover, the other side of believing is making,
he who does not believe does not make, and he who makes believes.
But things will change: there shall be only the making,
and change shall have no other meaning than change.
In the place where Venice once stood . . .
Let us resume the discussion of the sun.
The sun beat down on tilled fields
I don’t know whether it was Caesarea, Cerveteri, or Ceuta
The sun beat down on Spello
A youth obedient to the religion of the fathers
I followed the sun into the realm of the dead.
Journey to the Necropolis. Ethnological syncretism.
Juxtaposition of tomb styles; but let it not be said
that this is only about funerary constructions;
all the hierarchies of the Tallensi Ancestors (for example);
civilization heaped upon civilization, no perspective; all frontal;
(the perspectives are inner, poetic surfaces): the chaos
of the entire World of the Dead; it can have various chapters;
either the general (histories of peoples);
or the specific; or, to put it better, the monographic
could be presented by a hypothesis (in which I believe
as a professional, even though, in this field,
I’m not a researcher with any basis in fieldwork . . . other
than . . .
adventures in biblical . . . knowledge . . .
with good Tallensi, of course, or with the Indian brown of Madras and environs, etc.
The hypothesis is the following: religion is always a projection
of the relationship between the suckling child and the father and mother
(sic). Since this is experienced
by the baby, who knows nothing, he, not knowing anything,
does not overcome the experience but harbors it within, whole (even if forgotten),
and adds to it his other experiences, which in no way annul it
but rather line up beside it, equally whole, until they form
the purely frontal view that is true history.
As I was saying, then, in this relationship, father and mother
are an undifferentiated unit: Grace.
The place of their omnipresence and all-seeingness
is the Third Heaven.
A few evenings ago at Ürgüp I had a revealing dream.
Was I perhaps in the place of my origins?
In the presence of my mother (who shared, consciously, my unhappiness),
beside a great table, I felt again
the bliss I’d known as a newborn
when for the first time I slept and ate.
It was probably at that point, when the newborn,
as in my dream, blissfully realizes, for the first time,
that he sleeps and eats,
that the two parents, previously separate, become present.
No longer a single God, but a bull and a cow.
This experience is added to the previous one, without superseding it,
and they coexist in the Pantheon
And so I went down with that ancient sun, as an initiate,
into the Realm of the Dead. I communicated
my experience through orgies, blasphemies,
scandal for scandal’s sake, yet against a background of total obedience.
Then came the moment when the sun rose again;
and I experienced resurrection.
A young lout full of my culture
and harboring much ill will towards the fathers of my country
(but not so much against the fathers of other countries)
like the young Pound when he came over to Europe in the 1910s
Except that he remained there, in Europe (the Realm of the Dead),
whereas I shall rise again a second time.
I will accept a neocapitalist Kayseri, an industrialized Arezzo
Unlike Pound, but neither like a Red Guard;
in no way do I want my decision to destroy
either recent tradition or all tradition:
I’ll be a young lout who doesn’t know history
but will have accepted its end—after his resurrection.
What I mean is that the will to know no more
shall have nothing to do with it; nor shall nostalgia.
Of course it will be a long-term phenomenon;
at least as long as the sunset, the agony, in Cerveteri or Ceuta.
It will take a long time before there is nothingness
where today there is everything, decomposing and self-renewing:
I shall not triumph like a Chinese Red Guard for having destroyed everything.
When the sun rises again
I shall go away, unremembering, with my specialization
in the place where Venice once stood . . .
Other Materials (as Above)
THE WORLD’S HOMOGENEITY (with nothing sacred or beautiful)
will be my freedom, which I shall enter as a hooligan.
And my life will be a series of unspiritual conquests.
INDUSTRIAL POWER will only temporarily be power.
Then, for my merely present mind, it will have to dissolve;
it too shall collpase, on top of the collapsed archetypes.
THE INTERRELATION between society and the individual
will be so perfect . . . that it will not exist!
And my life, I repeat, will be pure freedom.
BY ACCULTURATION I shall be a member of a society
so unique as to be practically infinite.
The uniqueness of culture means
that by identifying with it
I shall not distinguish myself from other cultures,
and will therefore never again feel the terrible regret
at not being somewhere else.
History’s nostalgia (compared to future history)
over not being part of something else: oh, how I’ve suffered it!
The prediction of Paradise
is correct, as always, when predicting Paradise
ceases to mean anything. But the use of the future (alas)
has not yet been dropped from this grammar.
Ah, the making, free of belief!
A liberation occurring in a worldwide city of cement!
The past seen—revisited—as a sacrarium
or better yet a Pantheon, for crude faith
does not transcend the Gods but aligns them frontally:
experiences remain simultaneously present, even if the most ancient
are fossils. Now the whole Temple is a fossil, and thus
everything is aligned: nothing is transcended, or forgotten.
In the place where Venice once stood . . .
Free of the obsession with religion
(of which the present canto is a product)
I shall go away
Loaded with my culture like a good Tallensi with his own,
faithful to my fieldwork, but loaded with wakan
in the bombardment of the manna-type and mana,
I visit that Sanctuary (as myself writing here)
leaving pieces of my body (goat?) at the different tabernacles
simultaneously present, without transcending my successive adorations
but only cataloguing them
Since only in the conscious mind are experiences transcended,
while in the unconscious they line up one beside the other,
the syntheses and stockpilings of the conscious mind
thus occur together;
stockpiling the various experiences of the Father (sic)
such as I knew him in Bologna in ’22, all-powerful—heavenly,
then in Parma in ’23—otiosus
then from ’24 to ’27, dramatic, bullish, horselike with his lingam
in his jodhpurs as second lieutenant in the Royal Army—
Formed by separate, untranscended moments of darkness
his foundation and unity lie nevertheless
in the continuity of time, in the course of which he made his appearances.
Within this unity
one side regrets the other.
I look desperately away from one tabernacle
and towards the other tabernacle
unable to be before both at once
and seeing in each the fatherly beauty of the past
the worst thing in the world
is not man’s exploitation of man
In the place where Venice once stood . . .
Free of the obsession with religion
(of which the present canto is a product)
I shall go away
The Garden of Fish
Caedmon saw the orphan—
a desire to sing burst forth in his heart—
and he thought at once of God the Father
Ah Caedmon, Caedmon
you bore the lie with you to the grave;
how beautiful the young salmon trees were,
the rosy flesh peering out through the leaves,
as clusters of silvery herring-fruit
shimmered all around—
in the great domains where His word, so modern,
was spreading against the old barbarism—
Thickets with whimsical boughs full of seashells,
rows of small Histiophoridae in soft furrows
Ah Caedmon, Caedmon
what’s religion got to do with it?
In the distance, against the blue blade of sky,
there’s an orchard of little hake trees,
and beneath them, creeping like squash vines,
some mullet plants, gray-green in color. I know
your desire to sing was great,
you were neither gardener nor farmer
and your mother raised you under a blade of sky
so seldom blue and always ice-cold—
far from the sea whence the barbarians had come
to feel poor and old before the Church’s novelties!
Oyster-palms basked in the wan polar sun, immobile,
not a breath of wind moved
the trellises bracing the delicate sprigs
of violet sea bream like peacock plumes . . .
Ah, Caedmon, Caedmon
the song was bursting inside you,
it doesn’t matter what you sing.