The International Literary Quarterly
Contributors

Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Donald Adamson
Diran Adebayo
Nausheen Ahmad
Toheed Ahmad
Amanda Aizpuriete
Baba Akote
Elisa Albo
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Rosetta Allan
María Teresa Andruetto
Innokenty Annensky
Claudia Apablaza
Robert Appelbaum
Michael Arditti
Jenny Argante
Sandra Arnold
C.J.K. Arkell
Agnar Artúvertin
Sarah Arvio
Rosemary Ashton
Mammed Aslan
Coral Atkinson
Rose Ausländer
Shushan Avagyan
Razif Bahari
Elizabeth Baines
Jo Baker
Ismail Bala
Evgeny Baratynsky
Saule Abdrakhman-kyzy Batay
Konstantin Nikolaevich Batyushkov
William Bedford
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Sven Birkerts
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Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
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Paulette Dubé
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Mohamed El-Bisatie
Tsvetanka Elenkova
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Osama Esber
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Kerry Hines
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David Howard
Sue Hubbard
Aamer Hussein
Fahmida Hussain
Alexander Hutchison
Sabine Huynh
Juan Kruz Igerabide Sarasola
Neil Langdon Inglis
Jouni Inkala
Ofonime Inyang
Kevin Ireland
Michael Ives
Philippe Jacottet
Robert Alan Jamieson
Rebecca Jany
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Ana Jelnikar
Miroslav Jindra
Stephanie Johnson
Bret Anthony Johnston
Marion Jones
Tim Jones
Gabriel Josipovici
Pierre-Albert Jourdan
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Tomoko Kanda
Maarja Kangro
Jana Kantorová-Báliková
Fawzi Karim
Kapka Kassabova
Susan Kelly-DeWitt
Mimi Khalvati
Daniil Kharms
Velimir Khlebnikov
Akhmad hoji Khorazmiy
David Kinloch
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Yudit Kiss
Tomislav Kuzmanović
Andrea Labinger
Charles Lambert
Christopher Lane
Jan Lauwereyns
Fernando Lavandeira
Graeme Lay
Ilias Layios
Hiên-Minh Lê
Mikhail Lermontov
Miriam Levine
Suzanne Jill Levine
Micaela Lewitt
Zhimin Li
Joanne Limburg
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Parvin Loloi
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Ana Lucic
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Kona Macphee
Kate Mahony
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Channah Magori
Vasyl Makhno
Marcelo Maturana Montañez
Stephanie Mayne
Ben Mazer
Harvey Molloy
Osip Mandelstam
Alberto Manguel
Olga Markelova
Laura Marney
Geraldine Maxwell
John McAuliffe
Peter McCarey
John McCullough
Richard McKane
John MacKinven
Cilla McQueen
Edie Meidav
Ernst Meister
Lina Meruane
Jesse Millner
Deborah Moggach
Mawatle J. Mojalefa
Jonathan Morley
César Moro
Helen Mort
Laura Moser
Andrew Motion
Paola Musa
Robin Myers
André Naffis-Sahely
Vivek Narayanan
Bob Natifu
María Negroni
Hernán Neira
Barbra Nightingale
Paschalis Nikolaou
James Norcliffe
Carol Novack
Annakuly Nurmammedov
Joyce Carol Oates
Sunday Enessi Ododo
Obododimma Oha
Michael O'Leary
Antonio Diaz Oliva
Wilson Orhiunu
Maris O'Rourke
Sue Orr
Wendy O'Shea-Meddour
María Claudia Otsubo
Ruth Padel
Ron Padgett
Thalia Pandiri
Judith Dell Panny
Hom Paribag
Lawrence Patchett
Ian Patterson
Georges Perros
Pascale Petit
Aleksandar Petrov
Mario Petrucci
Geoffrey Philp
Toni Piccini
Henning Pieterse
Robert Pinsky
Mark Pirie
David Plante
Nicolás Poblete
Sara Poisson
Clare Pollard
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Wena Poon
Orest Popovych
Jem Poster
Begonya Pozo
Pauline Prior-Pitt
Eugenia Prado Bassi
Ian Probstein
Sheenagh Pugh
Kate Pullinger
Zosimo Quibilan, Jr
Vera V. Radojević
Margaret Ranger
Tessa Ransford
Shruti Rao
Irina Ratushinskaya
Tanyo Ravicz
Richard Reeve
Sue Reidy
Joan Retallack
Laura Richardson
Harry Ricketts
Ron Riddell
Cynthia Rimsky
Loreto Riveiro Alvarez
James Robertson
Peter Robertson
Gonzalo Rojas
Dilys Rose
Gabriel Rosenstock
Jack Ross
Anthony Rudolf
Basant Rungta
Joseph Ryan
Sean Rys
Jostein Sæbøe
André Naffis Sahely
Eurig Salisbury
Fiona Sampson
Polly Samson
Priya Sarukkai Chabria
Maree Scarlett
John Schad
Michael Schmidt
L.E. Scott
Maureen Seaton
Alexis Sellas
Hadaa Sendoo
Chris Serio
Resul Shabani
Bina Shah
Yasir Shah
Daniel Shapiro
Ruth Sharman
Tina Shaw
David Shields
Ana María Shua
Christine Simon
Iain Sinclair
Katri Skala
Carole Smith
Ian C. Smith
Elizabeth Smither
John Stauffer
Jim Stewart
Susan Stewart
Jesper Svenbro
Virgil Suárez
Lars-Håkan Svensson
Sridala Swami
Rebecca Swift
George Szirtes
Chee-Lay Tan
Tugrul Tanyol
José-Flore Tappy
Alejandro Tarrab
Campbell Taylor
John Taylor
Judith Taylor
Petar Tchouhov
Miguel Teruel
John Thieme
Karen Thornber
Tim Tomlinson
Angela Topping
David Trinidad
Kola Tubosun
Nick Vagnoni
Joost Vandecasteele
Jan van Mersbergen
Latika Vasil
Yassen Vassilev
Lawrence Venuti
Lidia Vianu
Dev Virahsawmy
Anthony Vivis
Richard Von Sturmer
Răzvan Voncu
Nasos Vayenas
Mauricio Wacquez
Julie Marie Wade
Alan Wall
Marina Warner
Mia Watkins
Peter Wells
Stanley Wells
Laura Watkinson
Joe Wiinikka-Lydon
Hayden Williams
Edwin Williamson
Ronald V. Wilson
Stephen Wilson
Alison Wong
Leslie Woodard
Elzbieta Wójcik-Leese
Niel Wright
Manolis Xexakis
Xu Xi
Gao Xingjian
Sonja Yelich
Tamar Yoseloff
Augustus Young
Soltobay Zaripbekov
Karen Zelas
Alan Ziegler
Ariel Zinder

 

President, Publisher & Founding Editor:
Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Glenna Luschei
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Vice-President: Elena Poniatowska
U. S. General Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
London Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Geraldine Maxwell
New York Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Meena Alexander
Washington D.C. Editor/Senior
Editor-at-Large:
Laura Moser
Argentine Editor: Yamila Musa
Deputy Editor: Allen Hibbard
Deputy Editor: Jerónimo Mohar Volkow
Deputy Editor: Bina Shah
Advisory Consultant: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
General Editor: Malvina Segui
Art Editor: Lara Alcantara-Lansberg
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boullossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Hollis Clayson
Sarah Churchwell
Marcelo Cohen
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
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Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
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Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Beatriz Hausner
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
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Joseph Koerner
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Julia Kristeva
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Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
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Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
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David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
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Victor Vitanza
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Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Assistant Editor: Sara Besserman
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Conor Bracken
Assistant Editor: Eugenio Conchez
Assistant Editor: Patricia Delmar
Assistant Editor: Lucila Gallino
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Krista Oehlke
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Assistant Editor: Naomi Schub
Assistant Editor: Stephanie Smith
Assistant Editor: Emily Snyder
Assistant Editor: Robert Toperter
Assistant Editor: Laurence Webb
Art Consultant: Verónica Barbatano
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

 



Poetic Voices:
Ravenna
A Poem By: David Garyan
 

 



Ravenna II

Ravenna III

In the beginning,
time destroys cities,
but death heals them again.
Like ruins of great empires,
only decay can give birth
to historyó
only roots of ancient rocks
can speak the language
of once-living trees.
A novice sailor
describes the ocean
like a schoolboy in love.
Schoolboys in love
recount the waves
like sailors taking their
first voyage.
Your ship has aged
but the sails remain whiter
than ever.
Your compass has not only seen
lines change on a mapó
geology itself matured
in front of your eyes.
Ravenna, long ago you did
rest on the very precipice of the sea;
all of Rome was once at your feet,
but the ages have taken
that from you;
every sundial and clock,
every other human invention
of time has left youó
like the fresh sailors
whoíve forgotten ports
that no longer bear riches.
You were thrown
into the arms of the past,
like a beautiful widow
who never remarried;
still, you never grieved for the futureó
only the death of antiquity
made you grave.
Now the seekers of power
and wealth have let
their lust for you
die at lastó
freedom, what freedom.
Ravenna, looking at you,
only the best artists now
realize you were among
the most beautiful once.
Already, the silence is quiet
enough at midnight;
the chill of September air
is fertile enough for poets to grow.
You didnít remarry
because you had no admirersó
every poet knows thatís a lie.
You couldíve borne
the fame of Venice;
you couldíve guarded
the wisdom of Rome;
you couldíve studied
in Bologna and been reborn
in Florence,
but you let no one
seduce you again,
except what passes us all.
Ravenna, youíre not the highest
mountain by any stretchó
simply the tallest
unclimbed peak,
until no such places exist.
Your streets are gardens
where only poets
can recognize
the plants.
Your alleys donít follow
an architectís precisionó
the impressionistís brushstrokes
lead them instead.
Your people donít walk
with the honor of kings,
always raising their heads;
they glance slowly around
like philosophers,
yet still move with a purpose.
Ravenna, I want to fall
in love with you,
but I canító
youíre too old for me.
Maybe you donít know,
but Iíve become a young monk
in an ancient monastery.
I feel the peace of dead forests,
of murdered trees cut down
at the height of youthó
only the knowledge
that Iíll become
a fleet of ships in the end
gives me some peace.
No, I wonít go to the fire.
I wonít become
the fuel of civilization.
My sins wonít keep me
from putting white sails
on my ships.
My virtue is a shipwreck
where everyone dies,
but the sunken treasure
is quickly recovered.
My vices are all things
which float on water,
so I curse the depth
and clarity of this world.
Ravenna, I still havenít
entered Danteís tombó
no, I consider myself worthy,
but I also do fear my past.
My ego has burned
old books
just to collect the ashes
in bottles and throw them
into the ocean.
My foresighted vision
assured me I could throw
salt on the deep
wounds of the sea.
My pen is only the depth
in which squids are extinct.
Like vanity living
in a room full
of carnival mirrors,
Iíve written lines to call
myself a poet and Iíve
called myself a poet
just to impress people.
Iíve come here to cease
being a poet.
My heart is the English language
written from right to left.
My language is the last heartbeat
of a criminal on the run.
Ravenna, I wouldnít want
to fall in love with you,
even if you were young enough.
Iíve become a hurricane
that only has barren fields
left to ravage.
Iíve become an ocean
that no longer thirsts
for young sailorsí lives.
Iím the sweetest forbidden fruit
trying to tempt the dead.
Ravenna, the grey face
of your history
has given me peace.
By looking at the wrinkles
around your eyes,
Iíve ceased searching
for the poetís fountain
of old age and experience.
I finally understand what
itís like to love something
without being in love with it.
Everything I write
has no meaning
and makes sense
at the same timeó
it feels like life
has no purpose,
but you still choose
to rise in the morning
and watch yourself
go round the sun
once again.
Sometimes, past midnight,
I visit Piazza del Popolo
just to sit on a bench.
Like an adult who doesnít
know what he wants,
I tell myself that I wish
to see no one,
to be alone,
to refuse the drunk
consolation of friends,
but thatís precisely when
Iím not telling the truthó
the urge to see someone
is strongest right then.
Ravenna, time is also taking my youth,
but unlike you I remain a naÔve sailor.
My eyes are tired feet
sick of new places.
My feet are vigilant eyes
trying to avoid familiar faces.
Still, I search for Dante on every
one of your streets.
My eyes are really two compasses
pointing in opposite directions.
Iíve forgotten the names
of every star and the shapes
of all constellations.
I know where the Supreme Poet is buried,
but I donít know where he is.
Master, Iím afraid to ask
on what page of your book
Iíll end up in the end.
Hopefully Iíll end up in the end.
I donít get why Plato
and Aristotle are in the beginning
and canít go to heaven.
Thereís no reason for nothing;
tell me this and Iíll be content.
No, again Iíve lied:
I donít want understandingó
willpower, just willpower.
Give me the wisdom
to lose myself,
to destroy my maps,
to meet people without
wanting to know who they are,
or where they came from.
Donít give me the silence
of the oldest libraries;
I just want their books.
Donít give me the faith
of preachers and priests;
the silence of ancient
churches is holier.
I love the cobblestones
of Via Galla Placidia;
to me, theyíre mosaics as well.
I never avoid this road
when walking to workó
the Basilica di San Vitale
appears from my favorite angle;
inside, under its mosaic sky,
lies the sarcophagus
of Isaac the Armenian.
I feel no peace
as I pass and witness
the antique exterior.
For a young man,
whatís there to behold,
except death and decay?
The naÔve vision of youth
is perfect in its clarity;
the perfect vision of old age
is so rigid it canít see
two steps ahead,
much less turn its head.
Ravenna, all I have left is my sight.
Why do I no longer feel
like an artist when I touch someone?
Why am I afraid to touch
everything I love?
Sight is the sugar
that makes jealousy sweet.
No longer do I want
to see like a poet;
take the words away
from my eyes
and put the world
in front of them again.
I didnít arrive yesterday,
but your mosaics
are still strangers.
Is it because I have
nothing to covet here?
Does only greed
steal divine things
with its downcast glance?
No, I want to steal looking
straight at you, Ravennaó
Iím a thief who takes
without guilt,
but Iím also a thief who gives
without memory.
Ravenna, I want to see
neither prisons nor charities.
Show me helping hands
without fingerprints,
and take away
the faces of beggars.
No, the eyes of a poet
werenít made for heaven;
they always find
good metaphors for theft,
and they see nothing wrong
with pride if itís creative;
still, let my hands feel
only the purest of visions
and put them on paper.
Ravenna, I want to stop
looking at you like a poet,
to cease searching for Dante,
or Byron on every corner.
No longer do I want inspirationó
all I want is to be guided.
The world has become my hell.
Darkness and light is everywhere.
Iím a modern city
that will be forgotten by historians.
Iím an ancient empire
that no archaeologists can find.
The chains of freedom
have been placed on my ankles;
I must make decisions now
without guidance from Fateó
bear all debts and rewards
for each choice
that Iíve made;
yet, Iím not aloneó
everyoneís world has become hell.
Ravenna, Iíve come to your streets
hoping to escape history
and forget the future.
Your wine is addictive
but gives me no sleep;
your church bells ring
like wine glasses at weddingsó
where Iím in love with the brides.
I want neither sleep
when Iím alone,
nor love when Iím surrounded
by people.
I canít bear the sight
of what I want,
but I want it all, especially
when thereís nothing to have.
Ravenna, I curse your empty streets
when Iím sober,
and I long to be alone
when your wine
has taken my hand.
Like an actor running
away from himself,
I donít seek inspiration
walking your Street of Poets.
Thereís too much life
in the verses of the dead,
too much patience
in the light of your mosaics.
To live, I must renounce
both death and tenacity.
Like mathematicians searching
for logic in love,
Iím just a fisherman approaching
the river of paradox with no bait.
I yearn to contradict myself
no more than three times.
          1. I live to die.
          2. If I donít live then I die.
          3. I must live by staring death in the face.
Every expression of yours
is the same and itís different.
The way apples speak
equal tastes everywhere,
so your women and men
talk distinct languages,
but they all say the same thing.
Non voglio niente.
Non voglio niente.
Non voglio niente.
Dear English,
why donít you understand
ďI donít want nothing?Ē
Ravenna, I want to live,
but I donít want to live.
I want to leave,
but I donít want to leave,
especially when itís dark.
I walk next to your Candiano Canal,
smelling the piss and broken
beer bottles on warm winter nights;
these orange-cold visions
are the best sonnets
that donít speak of love.
Ravenna, Iím so relieved
that I donít have to love you;
I feel like an explorer
whoís tired of traveling
but also doesnít miss home.
Iím a man who canít
know what she wants.
Iím a woman who canít
know what he wants.
My grammar is all too fucked up.
Iíve learned everything properly,
but without learning the rules.
I always make love
the subject of the sentence,
but I donít know what love is.
I always make love
the subject of the sentence,
but I donít know why thatís right.
Ravenna, I came here
to forget how English is thought
and to find your sentences
that donít need a subject.
Iím tired of people,
of thinking and subjects.
I want to live in a language
where only verbs existó
a world of pure action and motion.
I want to kill all
my philosophies and beliefs.
No! Kill all
my philosophies and beliefs.
Let me climb Mount Purgatoryó
dissolve all my thoughts good and bad
with sweat and exhaustion.
Ravenna, you have many mountains,
even though you have none at all.
Like fortune tellers walking
counterclockwise when
predicting the past,
you contradict yourself
and you donít.
I love your Torre Civica;
it can never compare
to the leaning tower in Pisa,
but it bows like an obscure actor
aware of his old ageó
proud of himself
and his long years of privacy.
Ravenna, Iíve come
to your enotecas and trattorias
in search of obscurity and fame.
Iíve come searching for wine
that wonít get me drunkó
no matter how much I drink.
Iíve come to escape escapeó
to be moral without conscience,
and embarrassed without shame,
to escape a world of revolution
where things never change.
Who will make the first
revolution against revolution?
Who will walk into the world
thatís become dialectic hell?
Who will talk to the devil himself?
Who? Who? Who?
Alas, thereís no          center          in hell anymore.
The only exception lies
in the purgatory of language.
Grieve or donít grieve
for the post-modern mortal,
but something has swallowed
the center.
The center is no longer the center.
My hell is now collapsing
from all sides.
No lever is long enough
nor fulcrum right enough
to move hell away.
Ravenna, I fear there isnít enough
silence in your basilicas
nor in Danteís tomb
to guide meó
the real reason
Iíve been afraid to go in.
Youíre quieter than most
of the worldís cities,
but maybe not quiet enough.
What will you do in 2021,
when the Supreme Poet
will have died for 700 years?
How many others
have left this world
255500 days ago?
I walk near the Basilica di San Francesco,
and wonder if Iím related
to humanity or time?
Time is the tormenter;
itís an ocean tempting
only those who canít swim;
itís a night that stays silent
only for those who canít sleep;
it measures but doesnít feel;
it calculates but doesnít reason;
it remembers but doesnít love;
it speaks but doesnít teach;
it has drowned many
philosophers who
could do nothing but think.
Paradise can never have time,
yet hell still invented
the instruments to measure it.
Why do we long
for 700 years of death?
I canít wait for history
to happen anymore.
Show me your living
Dantes, Byrons, and Wildes.
No, Ravenna, Iím not related
to Chronos and neither are your people.
Weíre born from humanity.
We want to live as we dieóforever.
We want to feel reason and love.
We want to feel, reason, and love.
We want the freedom
to be musicians and artists
without needing to have
more talent than anyone.
We want the freedom of wrong
notes and strange proportions.
We want art without art.
We want to be our own generationó
to eat and sleep like no one else,
to argue in churches
and pray in our homes
for some peace in the world.
We want our own chaos and insanity.
We can never be Dantes,
but weíre here and we must stay.
Only two freedoms existó
to exist or to die
and only one choice is freedom.
Why must we be born
against our will?
Why must death take life
for it to be free?
Death is not death anymore.
The contradictions of history are history.
We want to follow our own
path with a guide.
We want our own hell
and to make sense of it.
Master, how long must
I wait by the Porta Serrata,
wondering if I should go north or south?
Why are the flames of freedom
so unmoved by my cold hands?
Why donít you come and lead me?
Surely Iím not worthy of poetry,
but is a little salvation so trying?
Iím just a beggar
who can pay for his comfort.
All I am is a lion
who has afforded his cage.
Ravenna, the strength
of your history can make
two years pass sooner.
Letís celebrate 2021 now
and may early demise save us.
I donít believe anyone
who says otherwise;
death is the life of the poetó
like snow, artists
bloom only in winter,
or they climb mountains
searching for January.
Their words are ice sculptures in hell.
Like an unwanted child,
the poetís birth
is never unplannedó
weíre merely the smoke
from the arsonistís fire;
we donít claim the innocence
of unforeseen flames.
Our lives are the accidents
committed by Fate.
Ravenna, why must the colors
of not only your poets,
but also those from beyond
die in order to live?
Why does poetry flourish
in forgotten cemeteries,
but not in the liveliest piazzas
and boulevards?
Under footsteps of life,
everything can grow
in the spring,
except words.
Words are a thousand beautiful women
trying to seduce an old monk;
theyíre the weeds
in the garden of sight.
No one needs words
to witness the beauty of Liguriaó
let alone verse thatís beautiful.
Poetry needs the hell of winter,
where only poems can spring
from the fertile snow.
Ravenna, I love you because
you live in perpetual December,
and it rarely snows here.
Your streets donít have
the voice to seduce
many July travelers,
but your trees in October
have the colors to cure loneliness.
The poets of Rome, Paris, and Berlin
are poets looking for attention;
the poets of Ravenna, Messina, and Trento
are poets looking for poetry.
Ravenna, how many old scribes do you have?
Donít give me your twenty year old scribblersó
the ones who drink at MacGowan
and write because they have
to express themselves.
Where are your bards
who donít shoot ink
into their veins?
Where are your eulogists
who can write
in the absence of death?
Where are your poets
who donít call themselves poets?
Dante, I place poetry
in the lowest circle of helló
still, my life will be
twice removed from reality.
Iíve traveled endlessly
to reach the doors
of the most literate cities,
but even the sweat
of crossing great distances
couldnít kill my anxiety
to knock and announce myself.
Ravenna, I negotiated an ocean
not knowing your language,
and I came here alone.
You put no door in front of me,
so I walked in without being invited.
Hopefully Iím now out of hell.

Ravenna II

Ravenna III

Poetic Voices