Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Three States II.5

Those tied to the flesh shall wilt
Just as flesh within us wilts
Yet death of the mind happens earlier
perhaps the first time we accept
an order not of the concord of the different
but the deceit and privilege of power.
One needs a hundred eyes not to betray
though the reward is misery.
One needs a hundred arms not to lie
though the reward is contempt
One must be frivolous so as not to be frivolous
though the reward is silence
One must be cruel so as not to be cruel
though the reward is solitude
Follow the Gospel, don’t sin in spirit
It may lead you to prison but the prison is open.

The Italian original:

Chi è legato alla carne deperisce,
come la carne che è in noi deperisce.
Ma la morte mentale avviene prima,
forse alla prima accettazione
di un ordine che non è concordia dei diversi
ma inganno e privilegio del potere.
Per non tradire bisogna avere cento occhi,
ma la ricompensa è la miseria.
Per non mentire bisogna avere cento braccia
ma la ricompensa è il disprezzo.
Per non essere leggeri bisogna essere leggeri
ma la ricompensa è il silenzio.
Per non essere crudeli bisogna essere crudeli
ma la ricompensa è la solitudine.
Seguire il Vangelo, non peccare in spirito
può portare in prigione, ma la prigione è aperta.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Podolfo the Immemorious

Podolfo has been fully cured despite having completely lost his memory. Given that he has no relatives and the bursar at the hospital mistakenly threw his documents into the incinerator, he was loaded by the management onto a tricycle from the morgue and dumped near a crossroads seven kilometers from the hospital to cancel every trace of the mix up. It is, in fact, a hospital well-known for its mix ups ever since a scheming news review published a secret photo of the exchange of newly born infants displaying a young woman, just recovering from having given birth, breastfeeding two young puppies, and, in the next ward, a young bitch breastfeeding two newborn babies. Since the clothes of the patient ended up in the same place as the documents, a nun acting as ward sister found no other alternative than to discharge the patient naked so as not to waste a nearly new pair of pyjamas belonging to the institute. At which point, a chaplain, with a rather murky past, kindly offered Podolfo a cassock not otherwise needed . In haste, it was inserted back to front with the buttons at the back together with an ecclesiastic biretta which had a few negligible holes. This was how Podolfo made his second entry into the world- with no name and dressed as a back-to-front priest. Since he had no memories of any species he was restricted, like tortoises, to smiling. He was immediately hired in the post of idiot by a timber merchant, and now carries tables and poles and has even managed to work an electric saw, so becoming indispensable for the company. Besides, he has already rendered a work colleague an invalid. 

Podolfo has been trying to place together the different parts of the world but without much effort - something easy to explain if one takes into consideration the mediocre quality of both component parts and the whole. Everything is happening to him for the first time and Podolfo is finding it hard to get a clear understanding of the greater or lesser desirability of the event. His colleagues find him a bit odd, rather strange: he swallows small stones, walks on lighted fires, sits on eggs, barks along with the dogs; at the cinema instead of looking at the screen he watches the other spectators; he sleeps in church; he doesn’t walk down stairs but prefers to jump out of the window; at night, he watches the moon or the stars with chilling interest; he’s afraid of flies and of milk, he shaves his beard in stripes, chews the telephone directory, two or three times he’s been seen to pass through a closed door, he is continually putting on weight and growing in volume or, at the very least, every now and then he receives the visit of a cheetah in his room. Sometimes the scent of scotch broom is so strong in his room that one needs to open the window, he makes holes in the roof with his willpower alone. In short, his return to normality seems rather unlikely. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

Imagined, civilised being...

One of my favourite poems by Wilcock. This is a quick, unpolished, line for line crib of the poem Hope to tidy it up at some point. Here, too, is the great actor Vittorio Gassman reading the poem in Italian (it starts after 30 seconds into the video).

Imagine, civilised being, that you are the
Last man left on the earth and imagine:
All the diamonds have returned as stones
You are the King of America and of Russia
You can clean your arse with banknotes
But why now would you need to do so
Out of some scruple towards the worms?
And just as the phallus searches the vulva, absent
Your tongue goes in search of an ear
You put on Agamemnon’s golden mask
And look at yourself in the mirror, it doesn't speak to you
You search for the Sphynx but it asks you no riddles
You read old newspapers to rediscover
The vile voice of the vanished race
Mean, hypocritical, murderous and thieving
Yet at least it spoke to you, not like now
It lied to you, it hated you, it mocked you
But it spoke to you and sometimes even listened
You mourn the judge, the cop, the hangman
Who were you mirrored with a mask,
Yet those golden lips spoke to you
Not like the riches of the earth
Which without words are dust
Ashes, rags, stones, papers and metals.

You can do as you like, he who is alone is dead.
But that civilised being, the last
man remaining on the earth, placed 

Agamemnon's mask on his face
And lay down in the tomb at Mycenae
Hoping that Someone would see him.

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Wilcock poem against verbose man.

Repulsive being, you merit
Your verbal acquaintance with grief
Unlike the ants, unlike the porcupine.

You, man of words, merit
Your mnemonic acquaintance with death;
Unlike chickens, unlike the tortoise.

Con man and liar, earths vomit,
Ineffable reasoning sleazebag,
Shame of the primates, carcinogenic tongue,

Learn from pigs to be angelic,
From the jackals, from worms
Learn majesty, learn from the beetroot
To keep quiet, you, nature's spittle.

Putrescent inventor of a language
To describe your decrepitude,
You roll around in your putridness
That other beasts avoid, if not nutritious

Yet you have everything there in your mind
in self ambush with clutches of words,
scrofulous in speech, greased in dialects,

You, final arsehole on the zoological scale,
mystical carrion in the tinfoil
of your coins, sole hypocritical beast,

Vile being, you merit your own
mnemonic acquaintance with grief;
and above all you merit
your verbal acquaintance with death.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

In the Dark

The most modern techniques in the field of phosphorescence are at the service of Rapimio and his night. It has become clear that, in the past twenty years, industry has made great progress in this field, such progress that it is now possible to furnish an entire apartment with phosphorescent objects at very accessible prices making it possible to lead a normal life in total darkness. In fact, Rapimio doesn’t tolerate light: perhaps it’s a defect of his, of his retina, or else of the nerves that link his retina to his brain or of his own brain. The truth is that light for him is like water for cats: not necessarily fatal, but, in any case, an element to avoid or to lap up in its right measure at the right moment. Sure, one needs to leave one’s house to carry out life’s various obligations, at least the more bothersome ones, those whimpering obligations like a newly born baby abandoned at one’s door and which, beyond the door, whimpers and scampers until one squashes it with a frying pan or an encyclopedia that comes to hand. At times one needs to go out and Rapimio can not simply turn off the sun, nor dim the street lamps, semaphores, neon adverts and thousands of other manifestations of electric energy of which this miserable city is so prodigious. So he leaves his house with a brown visor over his eyes and an umbrella open over his head, a nice black umbrella that is liable to draw forth comments and foolishly perplexed glances, especially in the summer. The glances, under the umbrella, are not visible and Rapimio is deaf to any comments. Being in that glare is a bit like being in a French Revolution: one can expect everything. One knows that refraction dulls the brain, so it’s better to rush those few chores one has under a shower of unsustainable photons, an implacable cosmic flux that the umbrella  – imperfectly lined – holds back and that, in any case, the pavement and the air itself reflects and shoots in every direction like machine gun fire, a light that grabs your throat, and insinuates itself into the brain like red hot lava. And so Rapimio always returns home from these sorties with their unleashed energy, with a blinding headache. He closes the door, hermetically sealed by large padded cords, but for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour he continues to see red. At the end, though, black wins out and he is at peace again.

In front of the dark, shadowy mirror, with phosphorescent sticks of pasta and other gadgets and widgets of fitting beauty, Rapimio repairs the broken lighting. Beneath the bluish green of his supple hair, chemically treated, appears, little by little, the thin line that marks the edge of his empty eyes, of his unreal mouth. The quadrant of the clock is particularly visible, almost embarrassingly luminescent, and equally useless, given that Rapimio cares little about time anymore: in the dark all hours are the same. Portraits of his mother and father hang on the walls, pure bluish contours of enigmatic figures, to fill up with his thoughts, or not to do so, as Rapimio sees fit. The most necessary objects are all phosphorescent: metals, keys and the door handles: in the black living room two luminous fish inside a cold tub add a spectrally vivacious touch of tropical life. Many a poet has praised blindness, the conciling tenebra: it’s not necessary to gouge out one’s eyes though, it is enough simply to close one’s windows and cut the wires of the electric current. Until a few years ago, Rapimio was forced to leave all his lamps lit, because phosphorescence even of the best varnish doesn’t remain long if it is not opportunely recharged in light. But one day new radioactive isotopes, of unlimited fluorescence, appeared. Since they caused well known illnesses, Rapimio pondered for a moment whether to use them or not. Reason, the advocate of inclination, as always won out in the end. Others get themselves wounded in battles, as a special treat to themselves. Rapimio, instead, offers himself as a hussar to alfa, beta and x-rays and even to cosmic rays. He has already lost the point of two fingers: needles of ice run along his back: he can’t bend his left knee. And yet, and yet, laying down in his black infinity without distances, surrounded by greenish pale forms that, at times, seem to get closer and at others to grow distant, Rapimio has defeated time and with time, suffering, anxiety, fear.       

Monday, 3 February 2014

Vittorio Gassman's Meta Milonga for Rodolfo Wilcock and his Cat

The tale of Juan Rodolfo Wilcock's 'talking cat' was explained in another post. Below is my rather rapid and careless translation of the poem that Vittorio Gassman wrote regarding this incident and his homage to Wilcock. Mixed with my shame at the bad translation (all too prosy and literal), is the wish, at least, that something comes through of Gassman's reading of Wilcock and his cat:

Meta Milonga for Rodolfo Wilcock and his Cat.

Rodolfo Wilcock: I know of no other mind
More geometric, more mercurial
I doubt there was another thinker
So funereally intelligent.
It’s little surprise that he was formed
Alongside Luis Borges and Bioy Casares,
Alchemists of the square maze of Daedalus,
Of the great circular ruin.
Moreover it’s not by chance that the word
Death is the symmetric summit,
The greatest of poetic challenges
And the paradigm of another madness.
It’s hardly surprising that his repetition
Is allied with the zeugma and the anastrophe,
That the anagram and the epistrophe
Sound in him as natural scansion;
That from that cryptic rhythm
Larva-like words (non words) were born
“FUTSIRI” … “SERTYVED” … and declined
The hieroglyphics of the great logarithm.
There’s no wonder if in things and people
Contact with his secret code book,
Inoculated the visionary root,
The absurd unicum of mutation.
In the unadorned salon at Velletri
(they spoke of Marlowe for hours)
The Visitor, startled and muted,
Amidst a spurt of dark blasphemies:
For it seemed that a large cat
With a red stomach passed by and
“I’m bored…”  he cursed
… “SERTYVED!” with a perfect pronouncation.
“But I’ve…just seen a cat…” he exclaimed
Wiping his eyes. And Rodolfo,
A little annoyed “Always the same old story.
Yes, it’s my cat … so what?” he muttered.
“Well, a cat… but it’s a cat that talks!”
And the poet “But not always”.
He turned the page and cited a blank verse
Returning to Marlowe.