from What Sex Is Death

Dario Bellezza

from Secret Death (1976)

And I abandon death. Plaything of God.
The muses hurry along only if what’s gone
returns, separated into pain and confession,
oscillating between tender images and yesterday’s
lucid thought crumbling, rendering the memory
of impossible realities, those never wanted
and all enlisted to the vice of remembrance.
Those unjust and unlivable past entities
that made me a boy like so many others and now
a dead man who walks, an eternal breath of pity
and sorrow, dragging my cadaver-body
mornings that I wake and dress, wheeze around the house,
lock in the bathroom, and listen to in his chatter
of insults and daily routines, asking the muses
for counsel ironically, like a desiccated plant
somehow fragrant of flowers. Within
the heart that key word stirs in vain, death,
earthly death, eternal death, and it’s the body triumphant
beast that sweats as proof while waiting
to become cold as a slab of marble.
This corpse I dress and feed and wash
and reconcile to other corpses, I’m forced to love,
I manhandle it and ask forgiveness of its perennial
putrefaction with a limp and impotent erection, sterile,
with neither severe nor cheerful children to comfort old age.
This entire decomposed, frail body cadaver
I need to tire-out to brighten a night without insomnia
whetted by toxic pills; diabolical hearts wave
their neurotic flag in bed. “You too are one of us, dear,
choose the orgasm you want. We’ll wait impatiently
farewell!” The dead, the astounding dead living in dreams
terrorize them until the delirium of the most excessive
insomnia and the bruises of childhood placate me, lying
lifeless far from the center of my life.
“Don’t yell, Dario, don’t yell, you’re crazy.
A living melodrama of lunacy!”
Divided from myself, I watch my cadaver,
I think about the thousand epochs it’s survived
about the illusions, the fleeting happiness of a kiss,
prey of wise nocturnal thieves who understand
how to wait until that ultimate extreme gasp.

from Lovebook: “Lover” (1982)

In my night the worst of your mornings
on the pavement while I go to sleep
and you have no home. You’re alone in a storm.

Yes, on the pavement, sidewalks to walk,
sleep you never slept. Worthlessly I’m
in bed beneath sweaty bedcovers

and you beg to me whining about your day
to appease my primordial ferocity.

Now I’ll confine this unkind day to the air
all the way to the castle of your bones that
an English lover stokes.

There’s no mourning for you, or bed, used
bedframe or underwear . . .

You no longer enter into my unraveled
life. You wait in ambush at the door

and knock and piss slowly or loudly
while visible lines from the runoff
happily web beneath the entryway
crack—ephemeral chronicles
of a Time when Eros
bound us and I drank all of you.

Someone’s horrified. I tremble
hesitating and pretend my desire’s
gone and I don’t open.

I’m terrified you might kill me 
and I pity you. Murder is
suicide—spectacle of a poor madman
who still has an adolescent face.

Where you sleep I watch over.
I ripen the vendetta and fuel it
till it’s soothed by the last

How strange this repetition!
The end of love after love,
when the decrepit heart knows

at last to beat in peace. How
peacefully that dark animal
sleep waits for him!

Now that everything’s shriveled and squinting
eyes do nothing but seek out vice,

only this age of raising Cain
appeases the chanting of the Furies
rabid in their knowledge of being neglected—

the riot’s certainly easy listening
unfazed by the cock
that in its codpiece sings.

translated from the Italian by Peter Covino