Maria d’Arezzo

Translated from the Italian by Olivia Sears


My hands were so white in the sculptural tangle of this burnt-
umber dress
    that to me they looked dead
    and when, transfixed, I fluttered my hands quickly through the air
just to see if they were alive
    it seemed to me I was the specter of someone dead a hundred years
    and so I hurried to hide my hands in the folds of my dress
    because I am afraid of ghosts


When I said — I will come — you heard in my distant voice the wings of my
wavering desire.
    When I said — I am going — you heard in my voice near at hand the snares of my
stubborn will.
    As the sun rose and fell
    you held me and let me go as one holds and lets go of what is
plainly fleeting.
    Turning for the final farewell — in a moment of statuary stillness,
standing straight near a balustrade of rough marble — a silhouette
against a background of twilight sky full of half-dead planets — I faced
the audacity of a futurist westwind, painted in electric blue and shiny
lacquer. I laughed at you, a final strange red and blue sunset laugh,
and in the face of that westwind all my flesh was laughing.


Let’s let go.
    Let’s let ourselves go.
    This violent violet violaceous evening sucks me up with a slow
subtle cruelty that I like. The wisteria are all delirious with the fever of
their own scent — they fling themselves down with abandon
hypnotized hypnotizing — some even swoon. The air is coursing with
frenetic violet flame.
    Let’s let this orgy of purple perfumed with wisteria inundate my
senses and thoughts through my eyes. Let me be the whole spectrum of
purples. Body and soul will thus curve towards you with abandon,
elegant like that little green shoot down there that yes and no gives and
doesn’t give itself — and in taking me, all your tense and intensely
repressed desire will proceed with extreme delicacy so as not to crush
my fragility, unsettled and unsettling.
    Like when you hold between your fingers — a little at a distance
like this — the dynamic curve of a cherry branch in bloom, and only
the hypnotic violet violence of its clusters, assaulting your soul through
your wide open eyes, prevents you from sucking and biting all at once
in a sudden frenzy.
    Tonight you will hold me between your fingers just like this, like a
little green shoot.


the convalescent looks at her long slender hands
follows with close attention the complex tangle of veins
listens in awe to her own pulse tolling the rhythm of life

the convalescent half-closes her eyes beneath a blade of sunlight that gradually cuts
    the gloom
deepening her fatigue — even closing her eyes is a struggle
the sun is a violent lover — his kisses on her eyelids yield a vision of blood

the blade turns — it creates bluish reflections on the black hair arranged
                                                                                               on her pure white forehead
heavy her eyelids rise again on pupils darker wider farther away
what was the convalescent thinking under the scorching kiss of the sun?

she was thinking of what her laconic lovers of yesterday today and tomorrow might
    have said
if on the brink of returning to life she had headed pale and drawn towards death
she thought that just to hear those impassioned final words whispered low, maybe
                                                                                               it would be worth dying.

Certain Domestic Evenings

Certain domestic evenings, you come home before nightfall — and bid
everyone at home a good evening — and there beneath the familiar lamp you sit
with the soul of a predator in a sparrow’s nest —
    and so it is better just to set about correcting your brother’s Latin homework
and answer anyone who asks what you’re thinking: — Nothing —

    Certain domestic evenings — you come home to the order of life with your
soul in revolt — and sit down calmly though we really want to dance strangle smash
— and you fall silent with the silence of one confident she knows all their fears, and
can almost taste the rapture of suddenly yelling it all out just to see the chasms of
shock and terror open wide in the ignorant eyes of creatures too absorbed in life to
ask themselves what on earth she might be —
    and so it is better to keep quiet because the possibility is enough — and the
knowledge that there is always time.

    Certain domestic evenings — when at last you close yourself in a room with
the nomadic soul of a nocturnal predator — and you accept sleep and silence with
the kind of resignation that just settles in — and you pick up books in your hands
and hurl them away from you one by one because there is nothing new in them for a
soul of darkness and wind, enclosed and corroded by everything —
    and so it is better to start writing a love letter, that we will send off
tomorrow, like so many others, into the world, even though they are meant for no
one but ourselves —
    and better, afterwards, to turn out the light and remain like that, eyes wide
open so the dark bores in and gouges them out, devouring —
    to remain an entire night like that, without thoughts, startled by every crash
of furniture and following the yellow circles projected into the dark by our
phosphorescent pupils.

Maria d’Arezzo — born Maria Cardini (1890-1978) in Arezzo — was a poet and editor of the early 20th-century Italian avant-garde as well as a Greek scholar and translator. She corresponded for years with Dada poet Tristan Tzara, who conferred on her the title of Presidentessa Dada. In 1918, under her nom de plume, she published a poetry collection, Scia [Wake], but soon thereafter abandoned creative writing forever to dedicate herself to translating Greek philosophy.

Olivia Sears is a translator of Italian poetry. Recent translations of Italian women poets have appeared in A Public SpaceChicago Quarterly Review, and Words Without Borders; she also has work forthcoming in Jubilat. She is founder of the Center for the Art of Translation and serves on the editorial board of Two Lines Press.

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