Rosaria Lo Russo

Monday 5 November 2012 18:04

I am delighted to post this translation. It is the result of a year-long collaboration with Serena Todesco. It was first published in the Cork Literary Review.

Rosaria Lo Russo is a poet, translator (of among others Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Erica de Jong and the Argentinian poet Alfonsina Storni), essayist, actress and performer of her own work. She was born in Florence where she now lives. She regularly collaborates with musicians and performers and has contributed to many programmes on the state radio station Rai Radio Tre. In 2006 she made a documentary on the life and work of poet Amelia Rosselli. A panegyric of freedom, a tribute to Amelia Rosselli on the tenth anniversary of the death of the poet,  the film has been widely distributed and shown at universities in Italy and abroad.

The following links are all in Italian:

Rosaria Lo Russo’s website

Rosaria Lo Russo performs ‘Sonetessa’

Interview with Rosaria Lo Russo

Crolli by Rosaria Lo Russo (from which these poems are drawn)

Serena Todesco was born in Sicily and now lives in Zagreb
where she and her poet husband Silvestar Vrljić run the Brutal literary festival and publishing house. A graduate in Translation and Interpreting from The University of Bolognaì, she now holds a PhD in Italian Literature  from University College Cork.

Her translations work includes Croatian writers Silvestar Vrljić, Irena Delonga and Ana Brnardić; Nikola Madzirov (Macedonia), and most recently, with Silvestar Vrljić, a Croatian anthology of Singaporean author Alvin Pang (Other Things and Other Poems, Brutal 2012).

An account by Serena Todesco of our collaborative project on Rosaria Lo Russo (in Italian)

Visit the webpage of Florentine photographer Laura Albano

Poems from Crolli – Rosaria Lo Russo

Translated by Serena Todesco and William Wall

Things, disowned and badly treated, bear me a grudge.

Itching nits hatch from cracks,

suggesting future alien infestations.

The drooping streamers of some old birthday

like eye-bags improvised of pain

immense, abrupt like a coplanar.

I’d liken these gathering rifts

to those of our neighbours recently at war,

there where the party-things are crumbling,

but also to a loser’s tolerated tear.

But one becomes attached to things and everywhere

I lay down arms furtively like one possessed

and you, don’t you look at me , while, in vitro,

supperpresumptuous, we flow together into very civil wars.

Thus they steal – little rhyme – our ancient tongue

disseminating babylons as if shaking

off babellicose towers, mindlessly reducing

idioms to weary ornaments of dust.

Exhausting the brutal fertile desert

descending  bomb by bomb on the purged arena,

disheartened gladiators high on gear.

The rusting pincer of the stubborn delta,

bifurcate, bays at our barbarians.

Thus the invaded emulate with arms,

the alien who disturbs the begging dogeared papers

with  fluorescing phosphorous conceits.

And no one knows who secretly has money on it.

Closing the cracks, burning the corpses, snorting

with haste: dust to dust, and the ashes to be

scattered, contriving fences of enlightenment for these

black-bearded Neroes! Mamma mia, the Turks! announces the announcer,

in short, nods and winks for the Clash of Civilisations

for those whitewashing the dusty poor, for whom

there is the funeral lament and the mouths closed by dead hands

or even by fiddling the system, oh pontius pilates from some other channel.

And to empty the kennels of these defiant heretics

long-distance adoptions pillage infants,

other kennels are prettified for the faceless hooded ones,

while the mother-tongue calls home the conqueror from the void.

To Luigi Nacci, brother

To recapitulate: it forms up well The Front Of the Demented;

nothing new, once again, attracts The Western Front;

dust corrugates the leather covered foreheads,

defoliating, wrecking plants, fruitless brawls,

collapsing of gaunt cheeks, the ultraviolet

flashes of war announced by Miss Talking Head,

with the dust-to-destitute nonviolent ashes of the dispersed,

joebloggs wounded among renegade germs, fix yourself

your artificial paradise and stay there if you’re brave enough

surrounding yourself with obscure showgirls, pushy toupéed culture-

mongers, petty measurers, wimpish shafters, pimpish leftovers

of Guantanamera, The Red Flag, or Faccetta Nera.

Irreparably boyish big eyes

invade a static emptiness,

indicate a descent into the underworld

without respite of punishment.

Undersmells in the aerial emptiness of waking

a wasted froth of saliva on the pillow.

Impertinent things taken unawares,

Imperturbable, expose pleats and eclipses,

cracked like frowns.

The crevices symmetrically signal

risks of species extinctions or caducei,

a fulminating peritonitis of plaster, a roaring

sordid arousing, re-drowsing.

The gloomy things reabsorbing

two vexed suspicious glances

at the risible repudiated missionary lady

from the irresistibly ascending  bourgeoisie

as if from the bourgeoisie in decline and fall.

We who made the revolution that did not

work, take smoke like poisoned

milk. The new pope made a clean sweep

even of limbo. Even an unbaptised

child will aspire no more for

semi-immortality. In this glade that suspends

heavy metals we inhale, so to speak, the toxic

residues of civil rights. I read with unutterable

pleasure, in a sweet old translation

of Saint Theresa about the incomparable

value of a modicum of mortification.

La Sapienza does not want this pope:

Dante would put Galileo in limbo

to hang about with Aristotle, since it is not really

the scientific method to blame if the earth,

and also mankind that well represents her,

is just a small ball of shit that rumbles,

more or less orderly, around the universe;

in fact even the Egyptians used to say it.

The oozings of a sewer settle on the dry

torrent. Flocks traverse the dust and stand

among burned truck-tyres where the carcass

of a washing machine appears. The eye climbs away. Set in hills

the twisted south burns, a diver’s mouth shut, he skewers a meagre

weever-fish and castrates its head at the marina , the evening

stink of  the pork processor, and from the local

dairy factory in the generic plain of first fruits

the smell of liquorice and mint is almost

everywhere disappeared, and anyhow

does not transmit its myth anymore, even where

childhood nests, the mystic aeolic, like when

I used to go up and down on my bike stealing pumpkin flowers

and blackberries; extorted and forsworn,  my country is finished.

Three dissonnets on the fall of the stock market


Still you’re attracted to the Chinese trinkets,

though toxic, the glass or porcelain

junk, the frippery and the fancy shoes.

You’re a happy consumerist and buy ten thousand

in stocks precisely when the markets are falling

and they rise and fall down always more deafen-

ingly. It would be as if one were to go to the sales

and didn’t buy even a little coat,

you told me, speaking as one confident in the global

future of the Right, as one who is always sure

of herself, fearless in increasing her

own capital. I sharpen the little scissors and the grieving pen-

knife, conscious nevertheless that dental

floss would be less useless.


I would have never thought I’d see the end

of capitalism, says Bruno whispering,  smiling

shamefaced – we owe it to ourselves – in the pure memory

of a teenage friendship. Of course it’s not the end

of capitalism! I rather see the permanency

of the usual brutes, arrogance ignorance neatly

disturbing power, gomorrah like before, more

than before, and no one (including me) feels for more than

one second after another a morsel of dis-

honour. When as kids Bruno and I

used to play as the anarchic shelleys

Silvio had long been making buckusconi.

Money counts for nothing, the pope said it: it rises

and falls down again like a jesus on the way of the cross.


Yet let’s not wait for salvation, nor do we bother.

People with baggy eyes are very often

sexy. But it must be a slight reinfla-

ting of sagging skin and a welcoming smile

forthright and direct. Nothing to do with the blisters

of blackish or violet liquid that bulge sub-cut-

aneous in the lower periocular zone of the elderly

or of that beautiful girl who took a hit bang in one

eye from her boyfriend’s mobile just for a laugh, yes,

injected with blood the eye is unable to resist

the spurting wounded hatred. For the brokers

the ushers  the promoters or the whothefuckaretheys

screaming in wall street pity I don’t unfortunately or

fortunately have, and don’t bother me with salvation.

I surrender. I lift my arms –

they fall, brass and alabaster,

my knickknack heart stops astonished

and glides like this, slow as stone,

invades the gall-green balloon, and downward

installs itself in the sloppy sack of the lap

where it flourishes. The carotid match flames,

words implode from your mouth to my

belly’s mouth, they swagger.

And thus I infer, in the centrifuge of a brutal gaze,

the blunt fact of dismay.

And thus it dares, in the centripetal mind,

by fitful insights, lightnings, the absolute

simplicity of our definitive denial.

Because this is a collaborative work I cannot make the translations available as Creative Commons. Accordingly these translations are © Serena Todesco and William Wall. To enquire about permission to use them please contact me by email.