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
Gillian Beer
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Ilya Bernstein
Mashey Bernstein
Christopher Betts
Sujata Bhatt
Sven Birkerts
Linda Black
Chana Bloch
Amy Bloom
Mary Blum Devor
Michael Blumenthal
Jean Boase-Beier
Jorge Luis Borges
Alison Brackenbury
Julia Brannigan
Theo Breuer
Iain Britton
Françoise Brodsky
Amy Brown
Bernard Brown
Diane Brown
Gay Buckingham
Carmen Bugan
Stephen Burt
Zarah Butcher McGunnigle
James Byrne
Kevin Cadwallander
Howard Camner
Mary Caponegro
Marisa Cappetta
Helena Cardoso
Adrian Castro
Luis Cernuda
Firat Cewerî
Pierre Chappuis
Neil Charleton
Janet Charman
Sampurna Chattarji
Amit Chaudhuri
Mèlissa Chiasson
Ronald Christ
Alex Cigale
Sally Cline
Marcelo Cohen
Lila Cona
Eugenio Conchez
Andrew Cowan
Mary Creswell
Christine Crow
Pedro Xavier Solís Cuadra
Majella Cullinane
P. Scott Cunningham
Emma Currie
Jeni Curtis
Stephen Cushman
David Dabydeen
Susan Daitch
Rubén Dario
Jean de la Fontaine
Denys Johnson Davies
Lydia Davis
Robert Davreu
David Dawnay
Jill Dawson
Rosalía de Castro
Joanne Rocky Delaplaine
Patricia Delmar
Christine De Luca
Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
Paul Scott Derrick
Josephine Dickinson
Belinda Diepenheim
Jenny Diski
Rita Dove
Arkadii Dragomoschenko
Paulette Dubé
Denise Duhamel
Jonathan Dunne
S. B. Easwaran
Jorge Edwards
David Eggleton
Mohamed El-Bisatie
Tsvetanka Elenkova
Johanna Emeney
Osama Esber
Fiona Farrell
Ernest Farrés
Elaine Feinstein
Gigi Fenster
Micah Timona Ferris
Vasil Filipov
Maria Filippakopoulou
Ruth Fogelman
Peter France
Alexandra Fraser
Bashabi Fraser
Janis Freegard
Robin Fry
Alice Fulton
Ulrich Gabriel
Manana Gelashvili
Laurice Gilbert
Paul Giles
Zulfikar Ghose
Corey Ginsberg
Chrissie Gittins
Sarah Glazer
Michael Glover
George Gömöri
Giles Goodland
Martin Goodman
Roberta Gordenstein
Mina Gorji
Maria Grech Ganado
David Gregory
Philip Gross
Carla Guelfenbein
Daniel Gunn
Charles Hadfield
Haidar Haidar
Ruth Halkon
Tomás Harris
Geoffrey Hartman
Siobhan Harvey
Beatriz Hausner
John Haynes
Jennifer Hearn
Helen Heath
Geoffrey Heptonstall
Felisberto Hernández
W.N. Herbert
William Hershaw
Michael Hettich
Allen Hibbard
Hassan Hilmi
Rhisiart Hincks
Kerry Hines
Amanda Hopkinson
Adam Horovitz
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
Andrea Jeftanovic
Ana Jelnikar
Miroslav Jindra
Stephanie Johnson
Bret Anthony Johnston
Marion Jones
Tim Jones
Gabriel Josipovici
Pierre-Albert Jourdan
Sophie Judah
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
John Kinsella
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
Birgit Linder
Pippa Little
Parvin Loloi
Christopher Louvet
Helen Lowe
Ana Lucic
Aonghas MacNeacail
Kona Macphee
Kate Mahony
Sara Maitland
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
Mori Ponsowy
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
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
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
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Thomas Luschei
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Martha Nussbaum
Tim Parks
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Daniel Shapiro
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Daniel Shapiro
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
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 III
A Poem By: David Garyan
 

 



Ravenna I

Ravenna II

Let no hope
enter the world
that throws sinners
inside an abyss of flames
created just to punish mankind;
idealism will rebel against Paradise
and fall to the sphere of common sense.
Dante, youíve seen all the heavens
and described them to me
but I canít feel calm
until thereís no
gate to hell.
Even so, I donít need churches
to open their doors,
renaissances to show me humanity,
and enlightenments to restore
the Age of Illuminationó
to fashion another perfect world
a second Adam will tarnish.
My foresight is a birth
certificate without a date:
Today, I canít live
for tomorrowís heaven.
My reflections are drivers
who donít check
their rearview mirrors:
Today I canít live
for tomorrowís heaven.
Like turning pages in a diary
youíre never able to start,
or blinking in the darkó
like falling from heights
not high enough for death,
or eyeing strangers
in small towns,
the past is the present,
the present is the future,
and the future is an oracle
everyone fears but no one believes.
No, Apollo, I wonít call on you
to help me find the groundó
hell is what Iím after.
My peaks are always fatal
and my cities rest on doubt;
my nights persist like endless caves
where I donít cause the echoes.
Apollo, I must renounce your music,
poetry, and prophecies.
Gravity has convinced me
that even the righteous fall
when they fall;
geometry taught me
that I canít square a circle
in the highest circle of heaven.
I call Dionysus for this final task
and everyone he possessed.
Itís time for the rational
derangement of all senses;
nowís the time to cease
being a poetótake off
that cursed laurel wreath,
and truly locate the unknown.
Like the deadliest diseases
nurture the greatest cures,
like the worst criminals
raise committed detectives,
like the unholiest sins
bring the biggest salvation,
so the poet descends into madness,
attempting to carry the brightest light back.
Arthur, help me make the streets
of Ravenna go somewhere else.
Like a drunk whoís seen
his entire city sober,
I have no more philosophy left.
I canít think and therefore I canít be.
Like you, I believe Iím in hell,
but am I really there?
Tell me: Whoís my I?
Reason is a genius
studying his face
in a world without
mirrors or bodies of water.
Reason is a refugee
running away from life
by moving to a city
where life exists.
Like boats approaching
unsettled islands,
weíve arrived with nowhere to go.
The only thing we own
is our religion and biologyó
old churches full of sightseers
and drugs that pray for DNA.
The further we walk Ravenna in circles,
the more helpful madness becomes.
Arthur, do you see the people
with dead faces?
They walk Piazza Kennedy
full of thoughts no sculptor
can shape in time;
their downcast eyes are paintings
no one wants to see;
their smiles are invitations
made out of necessity.
Whatís it all for?
Opportunities wasted
like thirst on the Dead Sea;
bets lost like lovers
in arranged marriages;
hope squandered like rich men
beset by ravenous friends.
Arthur, Iím scared life
has a meaningó
even more daunting
is that my life could make sense.
Choices whisper like winds
blowing in opposite circles.
Fate is reaching out
like the mother youíve stolen from.
Contradictions grow on the same tree
like pessimists in a church.
Whatís the closest prison
to Via San Vittore 58?
My thoughts wander
like lifeguards
on empty beaches.
My lifeguard is a teacher
who neglects his family.
My loneliness is a solo show
in a sold-out theater.
Iím an infant and adult
getting older with one metaphor.
Only chains can free me from freedom,
especially when mankind is guilty.
The world is a life sentence
whose grammar starts
in the next world;
life is a mistrial that continues
until thereís a death penalty.
Society listens like hung juries
led into separate courtrooms.
Iím tired of looking suspicious
at the existential airport;
Too often Iíve bought tickets
at the train station of indecisionó
only to arrive at another one.
The way some fish can live
only in deep water,
so itís hard to leave
home when the unknown
exists in welcoming realms.
Do you see these people, Arthur?
Unlike Christ bearing his cross,
they walk Via Roma hauling
mirrors on their backs;
like guns aimed by soldiers,
they see faults of others
but never their own.
Arthur, is this what weíve becomeó
fishermen who canít
endure hunger when the lake
of our nourishment
reflects societyís hypocrisy?
Society is cruel;
it tells sharks to drown
and eagles to fall from bridges;
it wants lions to give up their crown
and turtles not to hide in their shell;
it makes owls sleep at night
and scorns spiders for tangled webs,
but Iíve accepted my helló
to live in pain is easier
than living to end the pain.
Iíll gaze at the oceans
the way old people
glance at graveyards.
Iíll burn bridges
like retreating armies
protecting their homelands.
Iíll fear being myself
like alcoholics whoíve lost
all control of themselves.
Iíll make up stories
like soothsayers who donít
ask for money.
Iíll go on with my day
and feel the sunís heat
with my eyes.
In nature, Iíve searched
for the state of society,
but logic bore no fruit.
In nature Iíve searched
for the state of society,
but reason still wasnít fruitful.
No, I must step out like an avalancheó
ravage friendships, hotel rooms,
maybe even the prospect of love;
then, like a storm at the end of its life,
Iíll find the strength to move ships
instead of destroying them,
make genuine amends,
and be there for people againó
resist sleepy apologies,
but live in the end
knowing that Iíve lived;
thereís no harm in destroying a forest
if you loot the way nature intended;
thereís no guilt in killing your prey
if only the forest is judging.
I no longer want to be a monkó
let me hurt others and be hurt myself.
The neighbors can hear
my insults and cursesó
what do I care?
One way or another,
theyíll build thicker walls.
Who really knocks on the door
to check if youíre well,
let alone provides help?
Arthur, guide me to this worldó
donít take me to Paradise.
Like an abandoned house
on a remote mountain,
I donít want to be saved
or to welcome salvation.
Hell can arrive at my doorstep,
because no oneís home anymore.
My heart will simply beat faster
so I can fall for the wrong person.
Let me go blind for a moment
when I feel like trusting a liar.
I wonít be hungry when I decide
to help swindling beggars.
Iíll ask dishonest people
for guidance when I want to get lost.
Arthur, Iíll show you
the paupers of Via Cavour,
old people laughing at churches,
and liquor stores run by Pakistanisó
donít ask if they sell pork as well.
I judge like an ethnographer
exiled from his homeland.
My mouth is a window
thatís been replaced by a mirror
I can no longer open.
My hands are two empty chairs
no one has touched for years.
My heart is a bed
thatís too big for one person.
My mind is a room
I want someone else to inhabit.
Like being trapped
in a house full of riches,
no morning comes late enough
and no night too soon;
unbidden friends always leave early,
and no enemy is rude
when he departs too fast.
The worldís greatest cities
are people destined to love
only themselves,
but you, Ravenna, have become
an artist whoís too humble.
Your streets are like brothers
that wonít chase the woman
who rejected me.
When you stretch canvases
for inferior painters,
I notice how rough your hands are.
When you edit the lines
of stubborn poets,
I feel the weight of your thoughts.
When you give lead roles
to friends who canít act,
I see the size of your heart.
When you conduct orchestras
that canít play together,
I feel your devotion to music.
When you agree to paint murals
in forsaken buildings,
I see how little you care
for peopleís approval.
Ravenna, forgive me,
but Iíve become miserable
in your city as well.
Like a man whoís made
too many promises and broken
one out of memory,
not out of spite,
I failed to remember
how human I wasó
in your arms I sought refuge
from a world that needs
more help than I do.
The way all photo albums
reach the limits of memory,
so the streets of Ravenna
will run out of room
for laughter and tears.
Arthur, tell me:
Should I continue destroying myself?
Should I follow you to the last
circle of hell?
Tell me, for Godís sake, tell me:
Am I also the slave of my baptism?
What if I join you in silence?
Why donít you speak?
Like guests of honor
who arrive too late at parties,
I wish you were here as a poet,
not a tense voyager.
Maybe then we could both find a wayó
be fascinated by ideas while losing
full interest in the world.
Arthur, is this possible?
Just say one more word
and it would comfort me.
Even bottles of wine
no longer bring peace;
I empty them just to put
blank papers inside;
still, no matter how close,
oceans are always too far away,
and mountains are never that striking
when youíre standing on top of them.
Do you feel the same, Arthur?
My whole life Iíve loved
everything from a distance.
Like an archaeologist who
wonít open the graves
of the holiest kingsó
Iíve avoided the things
which I wanted the most.
Out of fear or respect,
I never found anything
that didnít belong to meó
even without owners,
neither money on sidewalks
nor a watch in the park
could be mine.
Like lone guests in rich houses,
Iíve passed up thousands
of chances to steal.
Ravenna, Iím a poor criminal,
but perhaps ethics never starve;
Iím a poor criminal,
yet maybe I should
learn to deserve more.
The way trees look barren
just after harvests,
so Iíve felt too much joy
in giving away all I had.
Too many hands asked
and I believed each of them;
too many smiles reasoned
but I invited them all;
too many voices laughed,
yet I continued to trust.
A person who can only say no
when he owns nothing
hasnít learned to refuse.
My charity is a hospital
where everything is an emergency.
My trust is a bank
without any cameras.
My conscience is a hotel
still trying to take guests
when thereís no vacancy.
Ravenna, will you give Arthur
and me a room so we can
escape the streets for a night?
I canít promise we wonít break thingsó
the neighbors might also complain
and perhaps weíll be broke
if we pay what you ask.
Our status is clearly depicted
by the dirt on our clothes;
our childishness radiates
from the wine on our breath;
our obsession is written
on the fixed gaze of our eyes;
our gloom only responds
in broken mirrors;
this is who we are, Ravenna.
Our torments are bad literature
rescued from book burnings;
our saviors are priceless
gold idols thrown
in the melting potó
we have no more art left,
only a value.
We get tired of the same
bed even if weíre exhausted.
Arthur, I fear the day weíll run
out of roads in Ravenna.
Like deserts make water
more precious than gold,
like oil makes deserts
more precious than water,
like war makes gold
more precious than life,
the best is always lost first.
Without water in the desert,
visions will come in three days
followed by voices of angels;
without poetry,
Iíll live a slow death.
Without oil in our engines,
society would die like Sequoiasó
deserts would become deserts again
and forests could grow forests once more.
Without war, society wouldnít bleed
in the desert and engines would
start hearing voices of angels.
Arthur, why do you laugh
at my bullshit?
Canít I have more wine
than my bottles can hold?
Canít I fill more cups
than my money will let?
Just say your nonsense
is better than mine
and end this silenceó
stop being the exiled being
who doesnít mind leaving his home.
Maybe I should cease
wasting paper like you.
Maybe I should also
find Europe oppressing.
I donít know anymore.
The way monks choose between
two abbeys of equal hunger,
so I have two choices but only
one door to walk through.
My suitcases are full
of needless wishes.
My goals are two distant villages
not connected by roads.
My maps have all faded
in other peopleís hands.
My willpower is a mourner
cutting an onion.
Ravenna, comfort your cursed sons.
Donít blame us for neglecting
the Bible and drinking
at Piazza Duomo;
itís way past midnight
and the cathedral is closed.
Still, weíve not come to get drunk
but to seek solace in the Virgin Mary
that towers above us.
Our wine is the blood of humanity;
our bread is the body of science.
No matter which way we turn,
our minds are always against
something while our eyes
face societyís round wall.
Like people sent away
too many times,
we feel that only exits
are open to us;
like family thatís no longer welcome,
weíve become guests in the world;
our respect sleeps in the basementó
always close to the door;
weíre invited back with reservations
and never asked to stay longer.
What else did you expect, Arthur?
Weíre the sole visitors
who gave honest opinions
about the food no one likedó
our frankness has insulted the hosts.
Weíre now desperate men
and people like us
rarely answer the dooró
theyíre usually doing the knocking.
Why must shame knock
and why must pride answer?
I thought the proud fall from heaven,
not the ashamedó
truly, the world is no Paradise.
Arthur, I know Europeís air
is too strict for your lungs;
Africa and the Middle East are calling,
but stay a little longer.
Letís go to Danteís tomb
and honor the Supreme Poet.
Unlike Christians who
ravaged the temples of Greece,
we wonít harm the greatness
thatís become alien to us.
Arthur, I still blame that master
for not knowing the earth
revolves around the sunó
centuries before Galileo was born.
Donít laugh, my dear friend;
itís only 243 years.
Dante did likewise when he blamed
Socrates for not being Christianó
centuries before Christís birth.
Donít laugh, my dear friend;
itís only 399 years.
No, this is no joking matteró
this is the new Divine Comedy
and I place Dante in Purgatory.
Why? For believing all things
revolved around himó
classical arrogance of poets.
Arthur, you tormented soul,
I know youíve abandoned the art,
but write just one more line.
What should I do with Muhammad?
I know you speak Arabic.
Say something. Guide me. Show me the way.
What words can bring him to Ravenna?
This city is 800 years older
than his religionó
how long shall my verse wait?
Dante could put him in hell,
but I havenít mastered the poetry
that gets prophets out.
I, myself, am in flames
that are resistant to baptism.
Iím drowning in oceans
where the lifeguards
are old preachers.
Iím falling from low cliffs
that God didnít hallow
with waterfalls.
Salvation is a guest
Iíve invited millions of times
and never befriended;
heís always punctual
and brings friends no one likes;
he doesnít drink and talks little,
yet he always knows more than you;
when the music starts,
he fears upsetting the neighbors;
he always leaves first
when the party gets wild;
life passes him like a bartender
whoís never had regulars;
no, thatís not my religion.
I arrive late like an old
man on his way to a funeral.
Iíd rather go hungry
than eat like a doctor.
I donít mind being sober
when friends are away,
but my senses arenít grapes
grown on a farm;
I feel most free
on the hills of a vineyard,
running my hands through the crop;
the way artists cherish their paint,
I pick grapes and savor their tasteó
never forgetting what purpose they have here.
Arthur, I see that youíre weary.
The lines on your face
tell me we canít be young
in our future and old in our history.
Our bodies are books
that are harder to read every year;
our hope is a church
in which everyone prays
for themselves;
our despair is a conflict
thatíll end in stalemate.
I no longer know if weíre in the unknown.
Hell is twelve blank pieces
of paper disguised as a calendar;
it was born on December the 32nd
but doesnít have a birthday or holidays.
Arthur, why donít you tell me Iím crazy?
Whatís really the point of it all?
Letís go to Parco di Teodorico
and lie on the cool grass.
My legs are heavier
than two ships on
their last voyageó
my eyes are curtains
thatíve stayed open
after the end of a play.
If you wonít speak,
at least take me into your hands,
for the wind is too strong.
My secrets are graveyards without shovels;
my losses are the ashes of undertakers.
Iíve become a mathematician
who only cares about his problems.
Tell me I talk too much about myself.
Say I should have the apathy
of unfinished booksó
feel the peace of those no one reads.
Say I should be an astronomer
who forgets the stars in the daytime.
Say I should be a historian
with a troubled past.
Say I should be a watchmaker
whoís never on time.
Say I should be a botanist
who doesnít give roses to women.
Say I can be an architect
born from an unplanned pregnancy.
Say something, Arthur;
otherwise, weíre bound to roam
Ravennaís streets
like two people looking
for keys they left at home.
What now, you genius
of self-imposed silence?
I know the next line
doesnít warrant paper,
but Iím suffering.
Like Christ on the cross
finally asking for vinegar,
my pen can no longer endureó
it must become human now.
Iím neither strong enough
to burn in fire nor do I have
the courage to fall from clouds.
My medical condition
was diagnosed as mortal
and itís chronic.
Sometimes I sit in Piazzetta degli Ariani
and think about the mosaics
I have no patience to look ató
much less accomplish myself.
The wind blows like bad advice
and the sun shines like a thin blanket;
so, the Ravenna days pass
like university lectures
given by old professors;
whether leaving Palazzo Verdi
or Palazzo Corradini,
I wander like gossip on windless days
before choosing to go home.
Like thinkers meditating on the shore,
Iíve sat in countless libraries
fully immersed in my senses.
I pondered the distance between
myself and minds like Einstein,
Dante, Beethoven, Goetheó
without wanting to open
their books and plunging
into those depths;
with each passing second,
the waves began to sound
like they were the same size,
and it felt right to be in my place;
at last, I ceased grasping distances.
Waves and the horizon
from which they were born
never showed their detachmentó
like the depths of stars and sky.
Arthur, the best prayers say nothing
and occur outside of church;
like laughter on quiet shores,
the holiest scriptures are blank
and the soundest baptism
makes no vexing noise.
Like mirrors hung
too high on the wall,
tomorrow is just a day
to ignore the futureó
a chance to live
like fortune tellers
who never worry
about whatís to come.
Arthur, say what you will,
but yesterday is easier;
itís a marriage that quickly ends
in divorce but thereís no annulment
and the man never
loves a new womanó
Iíve had many yesterdays like this,
walking past the train station,
fully set on leaving Ravenna,
and Iíll have more tomorrows
where such thoughts will arrive again.
Like a person confessing on Sunday
and rising with doubts on Monday,
my house isnít far from church,
but even closer is the bar.
Like sleeping sober on Monday
and falling for impulse on Tuesday,
every train has taken me
somewhere Iíve thought
about leaving on Wednesdayó
Ravenna, although youíre beautiful,
I feel just the same here.
Halfway to hell I look over my shoulder
and see that Dante was right:
People everywhere
are like badly drawn circles;
cities surround me
like engineers without rulers;
countries confine me
like zoos no beasts want to leave;
the world stops me
like highways which end
on the coast.
Arthur, can the I in me truly believe
my mind revolves around the sun?
My body canít possess a home
that I live outside of.
Every face I meet alone
and every feeling I face myself;
every laugh must leave from me
and every sorrow my ears shall bear;
every doubt my hands must carry
but any help only they can give;
every burden my eyes must witness
and every joy my skin will feel.
Yes, the bodies around me
and the voices I surroundó
theyíre math problems
you can solve without equal signs.
Arthur, how do you like Ravenna tonight?
Even when the streets are full,
itís an instrumental song
whose composer died before
he could write the words;
itís two people in a cemetery
speaking fluent Latin.
Like the last leaf on a winter tree,
youíre feeling restlessóI can tell;
still, donít leave just yet.
The way earthquakes donít stay long,
so those with too much energy
are no strangers to the road.
People love the mountains
raised by minds like yours,
but they want you to give birth
without the slightest torment.
No, dear friend, youíll never
come back to Ravenna.
All is finally lost, Arthur.
The worst fate people can have
is becoming beggars in poor citiesó
I wonít even ask you to come back.
The way portrait painters
never forget a face,
so Iíll always remember you.
We went through hell together;
the women we met
embraced us like sculptors
lugging their own gravestones;
the men we befriended
offered their hands like flags
hanging on windless days.
We walked so far around
the Arian Baptistery,
never saying the same thing twice.
We asked the poor for change
and presented pennies to the richó
did we really laugh
at no oneís expense?
Like ancient medical texts,
we looked for peace
with bad directions,
and still found consolation;
we did all this without wanting to leave hell.
Be brave, dear friendó
go away and never write.
Iíll try to live here by myself.

Poetic Voices