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Vico Faggi

Translated from Italian by Massimo Bacigalupo and Jennifer Compton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Partisan Poems


 

Farewell

(Bologna, November 1942)


 

You waved a white handkerchief

for a long time

and you entered into my heart,

but you were lost in the ennui of the day.

I lived for one moment

true in your hands

then I was overtaken by the anxiety

of return.

The fog around us

erased your figure.


 

*


 

Twenty Years

(July 1943)


 

More yellow than straw is the moon

in the sky of Manduria,

youth melts

in your hands, the future

yawns. Tomorrow again

we will search for lice in the woollens.


 

...


 

Thus he wrote in remote 1943

a young man, a soldier

with a different vocation. In his backpack

he carries the rhymes the assonance

the assonance the rhymes the unwavering No

of Montale.


 

*


 

Semese

to Gino Covili

(September 1944)

 

The machineguns rattle shots in the night,

measureless like your heart.

On the hillside, between brambles, the partisans

seek the enemy. And blinding

is the night in the vertigo of darkness.

Take heart, embrace the earth

like life, hold on to your gun

and resist, resist. Fabulous

though brief, the story

of these days.

O man, pity

is dead. Do not tremble

if the night is wounded by cries.


 

*


 

Casa Berna

(October 1945)

 

The smoke that rose from the fires

and then the stroke of the mortars, the innocents'

death in the valley,

the dead man

felled at the wood's margin.

The picture lives in the heart.

The rain dampened

our bones, and exhaustion

was pain's respite.


 

*


 

Peace

(Brescia, August 1945)

 

At dawn the noise

of trams and sirens,

the men in overalls, a procession

afoot or on bicycles.


 

(The white road returns

and the houses suspended in the half light

the boy sitting against a cart

hugs his knees.

Childhood is a cloud

of dust that burnishes and pervades

the old man who sold carobs.)


 

Evening has come, the children's

cries dwell all around,

the houses of the workers'

district are still pink.

Apprentices play with

a ball of rags.


 

*


 

Via Emilia

(Modena, 1947-48)


 

Of the Via Emilia, friends,

I want to speak:

the dust, the blood, its people,

the green fields that it divides,

the cottages and years it unites.

Via Emilia is a road like so many

a ribbon of dust and asphalt

burned by the dog days.

Cars screech by.

Memories dig trenches,

the city is warm under its roofs

smiling out from its plaster and trees.


 

December the houses quiet

the snow on the flowerbeds

and the girls joyful

because of a bit of sunshine.


 

("On our exile the great glass

windows close, Faggi my friend.

On the other side the world the light

the roads the life that escapes us,

on this side the iron beds and the walls

whitened with lime.")


 

It's January the train departs

the sun colours the fog

the light touches the poplars

the red farms smile

Emilia partisan land.

Now the park is dressed in your colours,

hesitant spring. The spouts of the gas pumps

are bright against the sky.

The children hold each other's hands

a pensioner reads l'Unita.


 

I want to speak to you, friends

of the Via Emilia, of

the blood of its people.

Where are the brigades

that flowered in the snows of two winters

and came down from the hills

in the days of April?

I stop, look around, seek

the restless burning faces

of my comrades.

Where have you gone? What are you doing?

Now the merchants crowd the town squares

and the partisans look for jobs

in the mines of Belgium.


 

*


 

The Snows, the Snows

For Captain Toni


 

Les neiges d'antan? The snows of yesteryear?

No, the snow, one and only, immense as it widens

in space, in time, in white pinnacles

untarnished,

waylaying like a snake.

Night, risk,

your steps sink, the patrol

advances into no-man's land, is lost.


 

Can Death pluck you while the purest

silence thrills, and the snow is virginal, and

the night stirs and high above tremble

the stars that your mother named for you?


 

*


 

Ars Poetica

To the same


 

And again you cross the border

enter no-man's land

audaciously.


 

If my pen scratches

the white page

if the poet thinks of you

your figure appears again

audaciously

and advances

towards the cruel line

sunken in the darkness

of war

of hate.


 

But my pen writes

it stops you one moment before

and you do not cross

the fatal line


 

and death is denied

denied is the burst

of the hail of lead

that would deny you.


 

*


 

With a Black Cloud

(On the Gothic Line, 1944-1998)


 

With a black cloud, with dark splendour

the night drapes itself.

I have hastened

to my post.

A small breath utters a speech

I cannot decipher.

But the silence

on the hills does not linger.


 

Barking on the horizon: a thousand

wild dogs are unleashed.

A thousand cannons fire, the volleys

cross each other on the slope.


 

Buried in the creek that saves me

I gaze at the sky, at the stars. I am alive.


 

*


 

You Knew

To Silvio Folloni, Gold Medal


 

You knew it, it was unmistakeable:

your face wet

with a stoic pallor. From the moment

(it was dawn

Fulmine told me)

that the battle

to the last announced itself.


 

You knew, you accepted. The event

for which fate had,

from the beginning, destined you,

was about to be realised.

In one day you were

to meet glory and death.


 

 

 


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