We are planets
with personality flaws

Francesca_Pellegrino_foto_@paola_aloisio_-1Six poems by Francesca Pellegrino, translated from the Italian by Adria Bernardi.

Francesca Pellegrino, by profession and training, is a geometra, which could be described as something similar to engineer-architect-and site foreman, not exactly one of these, but one whose work corresponds with the work of each, a designer-constructor of buildings and go-between to the real world of permits and codes — in her case with a specialization of roadways and bridges.  

Adria_Bernardi__photo_credit_Tammy_Gentuso--April2013--10The velocity of these poems, from her collection, Chernobylove—il giorno dopo il vento (The Day After the Wind) divert the eye and the mind from a kind of mathematical logic with which they are constructed; it’s the logic of a poet who is always unconsciously measuring spatial relationships in a kind of rigorous echoing of that evaporates when you try to apply a formula. Her poems follow the course of a glamorous heyday of love-and-prosperity to the train-wreck of Italy’s economic collapse and the rupturing of institutions after the big party: “The principle partner / was seen on a tropical island / sun always / wearing a suit / made with my hide. Completely hand stitched.”  (“My bank is different”)  These poems also represent particular poetic inheritances: the lyric poet engaged in the searing, relentless, self-examination and the exploration of Bitter-Love becoming something else.  In addition to Chernobylove—il giorno dopo il vento (Kimerik 2010), Francesca Pellegrino has published Dimentico sempre di dare l’acqua ai sogni (Kimerik 2009), Niente di personale (Samizdat 2009); and a chapbook, L’Enunciato (Libraria Padovana 2008).  Francesca Pellegrino is a coordinator of the literary magazine LibrAria.  These poems appear in Chernobylove—The Day After the Wind Selected Poems 2008-2010 Selected, Edited, and Translated by Adria Bernardi (Chelsea Editions).  Born in 1974, Pellegrino lives in Taranto.

– Adria Bernardi

La mia banca è differente

by Francesca Pellegrino

Il mio cuore è un rosso fisso


tra crediti mai risarciti d’amore

ed interessi di mora

da pagare sull’unghia.

Al portatore.


. . .


Sono l’ultima della fila

al banco dei pegni.

Spero che l’omino sia buono con me

che mi dia almeno due centesimi

ho da pagare una bolletta

per tutte le ore

che ho nella borsa

investite in quelle azioni

che sono poi andate.  Fottute.


Il socio capogruppo

lo hanno visto su un’isola tropicale

sempre il sole

che portava un vestito fatto

con la mia pelle.  Tutto cucito a mano.

Gli stava da Dio, così come

l’ho amato

ma sapendo la poca cura

che ha avuto di tutto il tempo mio

resterà nudo, prima che faccia notte.

E freddo.

My bank is different

by Francesca Pellegrino

My heart is a fixed red


between debts of love never repaid

and interest on defaults

to be paid on the nail.

To the bearer.


.   .   .


I am last in line

at the pawnshop counter

and I hope the small fellow will do right by me,

grant me at least two centimes

I have to pay a bill

for all the hours

I invested in the market in those shares

that were then lost.  Fucked.


The principle partner

was seen on a tropical island

sun always

wearing a suit

made with my hide.  Completely hand stitched.

He wore it divinely, just the way

I loved him

but knowing the slipshodness

he used with all my time

he will remain naked, before it gets dark.

And cold.

translated from Italian by Adria Bernardi

Il diavolo azzurro, di famiglia nobile

by Francesca Pellegrino

Era un grand’uomo, lui

c’è da dirlo.  Impettito di tutto spillo e

mi portava a spasso al braccio

sempre che io non parlassi troppo

o troppo poco.  Potevo fare pipì

ma solo se non avevo esagerato

a saziare la sete. E l’amore sulle unghie.

E potevo baciarlo

solo se asciugavo bene bene

la bocca coi silenzi

respirando il giusto, senza

esagerare, come stare con l’anima

in mezzo ai ferri—stretta di morsa stretta

la lingua.  Che neanche una preghiera

si poteva.  Neanche una preghiera.

Era un grand’uomo.  Davvero davvero

lui, che si pettinava i capelli

all’ultimo grido mio, per ore e ore e ore.

E poi, una cosa buona, anzi due,

la fece una sera, quando andò via,

brav’uomo, lui

che aveva altre fiche da marcire

senza dimenticare lasciarmi il figlioamoremio

e prendere lo shampoo.

PrinceHarming, of noble origins

by Francesca Pellegrino

He was a very important man, he was,

no two ways about it.  Walking tall, slim,

and he always ushered me around by the arm

provided I didn’t talk too much

or too little.  I was permitted to pee but only if

I hadn’t exaggerated

satiating thirst.  And love

on the fingernails. And I could kiss him

only if I dried my mouth

very well with silences

breathing appropriately

without exaggerating, like having the soul

in fetters—tongue cinched

with cinched grip.  Not even a plea was allowed.

Not even a plea.  He was a very important man. Really

and truly.  Really he was. He would comb his hair

in the latest crazy craze, for hour upon hour upon hour.

And then, one good thing, two, actually

one evening, he did this, when he went away,

he was a good man,

who had other cunts to let rot

without forgetting to leave me

the sonloveofmylife and take the shampoo.

translated from Italian by Adria Bernardi

Nella pentola non c’era il sugo
e neanche il coperchio

by Francesca Pellegrino

Non sapevo che le tempeste

intorno avessero sempre e solo

tempeste. Non lo sapevo.

E così vanno anche i minuti

uno dietro l’altro

di fretta

a mozzicare i culi delle persone

coi denti intartarati.

E so di qualcuno

che si era pure inventato

un gioco nuovo

qualcosa come una parentesi che apriva

e dentro c’era una bambola

che aveva un figlio di pezza pure lui.

Ma facevano le lacrime vere

con gli occhi.

Poi, quando si era fatta una certa

chiudeva la parentesi

e tornava a girare il vuoto

nel vuoto, di tutto il niente del niente

che era.



Nothing in the pot,
Not even a lid

by Francesca Pellegrino

I didn’t know that storms

were always and only surrounded

by storms. I did not understand that.

And in this way even the minutes follow

one right after the other

in a rush

ass-biting people

with entartared teeth.

And I know of someone

who even invented

a new game

something like a parenthesis that opened up

and inside there was a ragdoll

which had a ragdoll baby that was part him.

However they cried true tears

from their eyes.

Then, when it got late

he closed the parentheses

and returned to spinning the void within

the void of all of the nothings of nothings

that were.

translated from Italian by Adria Bernardi

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There is a lawless canyon in our lips,
a labyrinth whose exits are burning.

Five poems from Luis García Montero’s Diary of an Accomplice, translated by Alice McAdams.

photo_Luis García Montero (1)

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I, III [Como el primer cigarillo]

by Luis García Montero

Como el primer cigarillo,

los primeros abrazos. Tú tenías

una pequeña estrella de papel

brillante sobre el pómulo

y ocupabas la escena marginal

donde las fiestas juntan la soledad, la música

o el deseo apacible de un regreso en común,

casi siempre más tarde.


Y no la oscuridad, sino esas horas

que convierten las calles en decorados públicos

para el privado amor,

atravesaron juntas

nuestras posibles sombras fugitivas,

con los cuellos alzados y fumando.

Siluetas con voz,

sombras en las que fue tomando cuerpo

esa historia que hoy somos de verdad,

una vez apostada la paz del corazón.


Aunque también se hicieron

los muebles a nosotros.

Frente a aquella ventana—que no cerraba bien—,

en una habitación parecida a la nuestra,

con libros y con cuerpos parecidos

estuvimos amándonos

bajo el primer bostezo de la ciudad, su aviso,

su arrogante protesta. Yo tenía

una pequeña estrella de papel

brillante sobre el labio.

I, III [Like the first cigarette]

by Luis García Montero

Like the first cigarette,

the first embraces. You had

a small paper star

shiny on your cheekbone

and you occupied the marginal stage

where parties joined with loneliness, music,

or the gentle desire for a common return,

almost always later.


And it was not darkness but those hours

that turned streets into public decorations

of a private love.

Our possible fugitive shadows

dared together,

smoking with upturned collars.

Silhouettes with voice,

shadows in which history took shape,

the history that today we are,

once wagered the heart’s peace.


Yet furniture

also did this to us.

In front of that window—which never closed well—

in a room that looks like ours,

with books and with bodies

that could be ours,

we loved each other

beneath the city’s first yawn, its warning,

its arrogant protest. I had

a small paper star

shiny on my lip.

translated from Spanish by Alice McAdams

I, VI [Rojo temblor de frenos por la noche]

by Luis García Montero

Rojo temblor de frenos por la noche,

así sueño el amor, así recuerdo,

entre la madrugada olvidadiza,

sensaciones de turbia intimidad,

cuando tener pareja conocida

es un alivio para los extraños.


Borrosa gravedad de parabrisas

en la despreocupada seducción.

Porque los coches saben su camino

y van como animales en querencia

a la casa, sin dudas, entre besos

que nos durán el tiempo de un semáforo

y un poco más; porque decir mañana

es casi discutir el más allá,

y hablamos del dolor de los horarios,

alejados, cayendo en la imprudencia,

como los vivos hablan de la muerte.

I, VI [Red tremble of brakes at night]

by Luis García Montero

Red tremble of brakes at night:

so I dream of love, so I remember.

Between the forgetful dawn,

sensations of murky intimacy,

when to have a familiar partner

is a relief for the alien.


Blurred gravity of windshields

in carefree seduction.

Because cars know their path

and they move like instinctive animals

toward home, surely, between our kisses

that last the length of a stoplight

and a little more; because to say tomorrow

is almost to discuss the beyond,

and we speak of the pain of schedules,

remote, succumbing to imprudence,

like the living speak of death.



translated from Spanish by Alice McAdams

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Pale Cupid: I am geysers, craters, belly-of-the-earth.

Two poems by Lucie Thésée, translated by Robert Archambeau and Jean-Luc Garneau.


by Lucie Thésée

Les bennes de ma tête bâillant

Partie dans un grand air bleu me revoilà pour la minute fugitive

un tronçon de tujau d’égout

béant à ciel ouvert,

tout y passé, ma vue parallèle de tuyao

a tout happé.

Qui donte maintenant de mon éternité?

moi dont l’oeil pré-natal assiste

au bain eternal des frondaisons compactes dans le fleuve houleux

dans le fleuve fecund de vies féroces, de vies colossales

dans le fleuve des crocodiles et des hippopotames.

Qui donte de mon éternité moi dont le corps

S’est recrocquevillé quand les clous cupids s’enfonçaient

cyniqeument, sinistrement dans ma chair pré-natal de déracinée

et la marquaient indélébilement, ma chair vierge

de ‘makanguia’ riche des bruits soyeux de jadis et des

senieurs retrospectives de la forét équinoxiale

mon bien primitif,

ma chair rouge-noir, vierge encore de tout nombre.

Apaise-toi ma fronde de rose dynamitée, vengeance est faite:

Mon éternité est.

Pourquoi ne m’y prélasserai-je pas? Je vous le demande, moi dont le coeur

de filao gonflé de sève d’impossible en musant dans ses aigrettes vertes

fait chanter le vent

moi dont les antennes de filao jaillissent à l’assaut d’un ciel de frissons.

Qui a voulu me voler mon éternité

O Mort, la vie ne ricane pas, elle rit et elle aime

elle aime en riant et c’est elle qui tue en riant.

Qui tue tous sec esciocs ai coer vague et flasque

O toi qui n’as même pas pu être un miserable.

Qui dit encore que le temps ne m’appartient pas?

moi qui m’étrille à meme l’échine du soleil

et l’embrasse et le baise de ma langue de flame.

L’essence souveraine de mon étrave voyuant la rage aux soutes

sur l’écume de l’injuste et du crime

allume les 89, les 48, les 45

embrasant l’horizon à terme de fraternité et d’amour.

Et maintenant pouffez de vos joues jouflues de graisse

blêmes indigents de la nue

Je suis jeysers, cratère, ventre de la terre au fond de la terre

Je lance la flame, attrapez-la au vol de mes rires, au vol de mes douleurs;

J’injecte la chanson, je perpétue frissons et frémissements fleurs d’éternel.

Eternité, je suis Liberté.


by Lucie Thésée

My head — a set of trash cans, open — gawps:

I am a drain pipe

Gaping wide,

And the blue day funnels through me.

I suck down everything.  All of it.

Who doubts my eternity now?

A river, prodigal, roiled with ferocious lives—

You crocodiles, hippopotami — all of it, I suck it down.

Who doubts my eternity now?


My unborn eye.

My coiled and unborn flesh, fetal, without race, without color,

Unborn, when Cupid’s little stinging dart

Cut in.  The little cynic!  My virgin flesh,

Unborn, was marked: dark.  A makanguia,

Dark with the silky noises of a past

In the darker forests, rich

In a primitive unborn wealth.

Unnumbered.  Unnamed.  Unborn flesh — red-black:

A sling of plucked rose petals, dying.  Vengeance

Was his: my eternity started.

Why not strut in it?


Why not?  I’m asking you.  Why not me?

Me, my heart-sap thick as a filao-tree’s,

Thick with the sap of the impossible

Under green fronds singing in wind.

Me, who skin spikes out filao-tree needles, shivering.

Who said eternity’s not mine?


My life doesn’t giggle: my life is she

Who kills while laughing.

You, who can’t even muster your misery,

You doubt eternity can be mine.

I’ll comb my hair with the backbone of the sun.

I’ll kiss fire, I’ll sail to those ships’ holds,

Those crimes on the foam of the waves,

Those crimes between the sea’s two horizons:

Liberté, égalité.

Fat cheeked little beggar in the clouds,

Pale Cupid: I am geysers, craters, belly-of-the-earth.

I throw flame in the flight of my laughter,

I take in everything, drink down song.

I’ll shiver and quake with endless flowers blooming.

Eternity, anyway? I’m Liberté.

translated from French by Robert Archambeau & Jean-Luc Garneau

Profonde allégresse

by Lucie Thésée

Le balcon couvert de tuiles en verre dépoli du vieux manoir est éclairé ce soir; sa lumière diffuse, clignotante dans la futaie ne surprend àme qui vive aux alentours: la longue dame noire ne descend-t-elle pas souvent au vieux manoir quand la lune s’affirme le seul oeil du ciel?  Aussi repose-t-elle, la longue dame noire, pour le voisinage, sur un lit de legends.


Dans un léger déshabillé qui dresses a carnation chocolate brun, la dame avec le calme imperturbable de l’éternité se promène sur le balcon; de temps en temps son gros chat tout noir lui tombe dans les jupes en miaulant calinement, c’est que la luminescente face de la lune—une face de mort—trouble profondément la bête dont le geste arranche la longue dame à sa froide meditation.


La dame noir prend alors la bête dans ses bras et à rebrousse poi, lui passe les doigts dans la fourrure pour lui saisir la tête à pleines mains; maintenant elle vient de deposer le chat et, lui mure avec un bref haussement d’épaule: “Tu avais peur m’a-t-il dit… il ne s’est donc pas douté une minute que ma vie est pour lui… l’envie de me ravir mon soufflé n’effleura pas son couer.  Il alluma une cigarette…” et le plus subtile sourire humanise son visage.


L’animal nullement surpris continuerait son manège mais la dame noire va faire de la lumière aux pieces de l’étage tandis qu’elle éteint celle du balcon pour reprendre sa promenade.  Ellse s’arrête fréquemment aux extrémités du balcon comme pour guetter une arrivvée… mais de guerre lasse elle s’accoude à la balustrade la tête dans les deux mains flottant à travers la tropicale musique d’une évlatante nuit de line, la tête prise aussi dans sa proper nuit… et naturellement malgré l’heure très avancée, pas un ne s’étonnerait: n’est-ce pas la longue dame noire?  Le jour pourrait bien la rencontrer là, à la meme position…

Rapture: The Depths

by Lucie Thésée

The one-eyed sky: the moon-sky, its light on the tiles of the ruined plantation veranda.  And she who comes here often, that black woman, long-boned, slender — long bones stretched on a bed rigged out of scraps and village legends.


Long bones, slight — and chestnut-bronze and unadorned, her skin; her clothes a muslin filigree.  Darkness in the dark skirt’s folds, her cat mewls for that dead man’s face, the moon:  Long Bones knows the face it sees.


Long Bones runs long fingers through the cat-fur, forehead first, against the grain, suffers the cat-eyed gaze a while.  A brief shrug, a flexion of the neck and shoulders. “He wouldn’t take me, he said ‘you are afraid,’ he lit his cigarette…”


Darkness in the Dark is not surprised, would suffer her fingers in his fur some more.  But Long Bones paces in the light of the one-eyed sky, veranda-length, veranda-length again, to pause, as if to wait for someone, as if to hope.  Late, and yet late.  If anyone saw, no one would ask: isn’t it Long Bones, dark in dark?  No one would ask.  She comes here often.  Day will find her.  No one else.

translated from French by Robert Archambeau & Jean-Luc Garneau


I worship fire
But recant when lightning finds me out

Four poems by Ghalib translated by M. Shahid Alam.


by Ghalib

ہوس کو ہے نشاطِ کار کیا کیا

نہ ہو مرنا تو جینے کا مزا کیا


نگاہِ بے محابا چاہتا ہوں

تغافل ہائے تمکیں آزما کیا


نفس موجِ محیطِ بیخودی ہے

تغافل ہائے ساقی کا گلا کیا


دلِ ہر قطرہ ہے سازِ “انا البحر

ہم اس کے ہیں، ہمارا پوچھنا کیا


بلائے جاں ہے غالبؔ اس کی ہر بات

عبارت کیا، اشارت کیا، ادا کیا


by Ghalib

In crossing limits we become free.

In dying we live dangerously.


Why singe my heart all day?

At once, pitch your bolt at me.


I surf the sea of extinction. Saqi –

Your slights cannot sink me.


In every drop the cry – I am the sea.

He is for me: great is my glory.


Ghalib, she takes my breath away.

What a face, what eyes, what sorcery!

translated from Urdu by M. Shahid Alam

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Make each dying rose
a confidante

Two new translations by Micah McCrary from Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Roses.


from Les Roses

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Été:  être pour quelques jours

le contemporain des roses;

respirer ce qui flotte autour

de leurs âmes écloses.


Faire de chacune qui se meurt

une confidante,

et survivre à cette sœur

en d’autres roses absente.


from The Roses

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Summer:  to be for just a few days

the friend of roses,

to breathe what floats around

their souls in bloom.


Make each dying rose

a confidante,

a surviving sister

of other absent roses.

translated from French by Micah McCrary


from Les Roses

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Dis-moi, rose, d’où vient

qu’en toi-même enclose,

ta lente essence impose

à cet espace en prose

tous ces transports aériens?


Combien de fois cet air

prétend que les choses le trouent,

ou, avec une moue,

il se montre amer.

Tandis qu’autour de ta chair,

rose, il fait la roue.


from The Roses

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Tell me, rose.  Where did

your slow essence impose

all this air,

enclosed within yourself,

in this space of prose?


How many times has this air

claimed that things perforate,

or, with a sneer,

watch bitterly

while that around your flesh,

rose, cartwheels?

translated from French by Micah McCrary

Long ago I found out that you were an unfinished animal

Four poems by the Peruvian poet José Watanabe, translated from the Spanish by Carlos Llaza.






La oruga

by José Watanabe

Te he visto ondulando bajo las cucardas, penosamente,


pero sé que mañana serás del aire.


Hace mucho supe que no eras un animal terminado

y como entonces

arrodillado y trémulo

te pregunto:

¿sabes que mañana serás del aire?

¿te han advertido que esas dos molestias aún invisibles

serán tus alas?

¿te han dicho cuánto duelen al abrirse

o sólo sentirás de pronto una levedad, una turbación

y un infinito escalofrío subiéndote desde el culo?


Tú ignoras el gran prestigio que tienen los seres del aire

y tal vez mirándote las alas no te reconozcas

y quieras renunciar,

pero ya no: debes ir al aire y no con nosotros.


Mañana miraré sobre las cucardas, o más arriba.

Haz que te vea,

quiero saber si es muy doloroso el aligerarse para volar.

Hazme saber

si acaso es mejor no despegar nunca la barriga de la tierra.


by José Watanabe

I’ve seen you squirming painfully under the mallows,

but I know

you belong to the air of tomorrow.


Long ago I found out that you were an unfinished animal.

As then,

kneeling down and shaky

I ask:

Do you know you belong to the air?

Has anybody ever warned that those sore yet invisible stripe-humps

will become your wings?

Has anybody ever told you what the ache will be like when they open,

or will you just feel a sudden lightness, a tremor:

sharp shivers up your arse?


You ignore the prestige you airborne beings hold

and you might examine your wings and feel strange, not quite yourself,

and you may want to quit,

but no: you must go to the air and not stay with us anymore.


Tomorrow I’ll look over the mallows, or higher,

until I spot you,

I want to know if detaching from the soil’s too painful.

Please, let me know

if by any chance it’s best to keep the belly against the earth.

translated from Spanish by Carlos Llaza

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