from The World Saved by Kids

Elsa Morante

from ‘The Chemical Comedy’


My Pretty Postcard from Paradise

I had my passport, with the official visa from the World Academy of Superior
signed by Doctor & Shaman Laureates.
But the first armed guard I found in front of the barred-up delta of the Bardo
was a murdered Aztec king
who yelled at me:
‘No passengers here, except stowaways or illegal expatriates. Get back!’
For which reason I did not cross the boundaries of no man’s land. Of kingdom
all I could hardly see in the distance
was a transparent vault, hanging inside a quiet amniotic twilight and adorned,
or so it seemed, with cheerful comic strips drawn by an infant.
While far below me, in the shallows, I could still see the body I’d just left
and it was turning to dust already, the skeleton reduced to the bare breastbone
sending forth a faint glow, like a little gold belt . . .
The novelty of weightlessness got me high like the first drinking spree at fifteen
when organs tissues veins all the pathways and channels of circulation
are intact and clean in their fresh wholesomeness
so that alcohol rains ready & blessed like equinox pollen into the centre of the
Paradises! paradises! Nonetheless, relentlessly enduring inside me
at the point of the solar nerve node like an abscess with its pangs, was the
                    certain news
that this Assumption was a provisional oneiric surrogate, like some quickie
                    picked up on the cheap
and that down below in the earthly station my next repatriation was already
                    officially ordained.


Late Sunday Dusk
          For the suffering of sick wards
and of all jailhouse walls
and of barbed-wire camps, hard-labour convicts & their guards,
and of ovens & Siberias & abattoirs
and of marches & solitudes & poisonings & suicides
and the shudders of conception
and the sugary taste of seed & of deaths,
for the numberless body of suffering
theirs and mine,
today I reject reason, majesty
denying the ultimate grace,
and choose to spend my Sunday with derangement.
O pierced prayer of elevation,
I claim for myself the guilt of the injury
in the base body.
Imprint my stunted mind
with your grace. I will receive you.

          And the little slaughter starts anew.
The sweat the nausea the cold fingertips the agony of the bones
and the sabbath of wondrous abstractions
in the horror of scarification.
The usual mournful peacock named Sheherazade
spreads her fan of piercings,
feathers and floras immediately petrified
in the vertigo of colours against nature, a lacerating lynching
of sharp pointed stones. No way out.
The range of the unlimited is another jailhouse law
more perverse than any limit. But yet again
from beyond a glacial era the daily norm
resurfaces now & then with its poor homely face
while the merging of the kingdoms of nature
melts the veins in waves like the first childhood menstruum
until the lymph is burnt. The carnal fever is consumed.
By now consciousness is but a moth beating around in the noxious darkness
in search of a thread of substance. Summer’s dead.
Farewell farewell contact details & addresses popes menageries & numbering
Via della Scimmia, Navona, Avenue Americas.
Fare ye well measures, directions, five senses. Fare ye well slavish duties &
                    slavish rights & slavish judgments.
Take shelter blindly on the other side, underworlds or limbos it won’t matter,
rather than finding yourself in your sleazy domicile
where you squash yourself between the walls smirched with painted canvases
that are recognised as rags & dusts of degraded Shrouds.
The floor is a bloodied silt boiling up
to the rooms, decomposing ossuaries, in the last flash
of a warped brass plate where lemons
swell out into plastic bubbles. And from the mirror,
staring at you out of dusty eye-rings, something other and yet
closely intimate, a dark scale on this side of every incarnation,
negates even the skeleton and the whole vicissitude
of geneses epiphanies
sepulchres & easters. Don’t try the crippled
ruinous route of the ladder, which for you is an ascent of centuries
always with hell above & hell below.
The decayed sky is the ragged low tent
of the earthly plague house. And the Mozart flute
is an evil saltarello, its rivet reaching
all the way into your eyeball with its tawdry pantomime
of an obsessive arithmetics devoid of any other meaning . . .
No further sky is uncovered. No thousand-petal lotus unfolds.
You are all here, woman. And there’s nothing else.
Attend to this. And stop calling out
for dead lovers, dead mothers.
Stripped bare, even poorer than you, they do not come
to this or any other dimension. Only your memory is left
as their ultimate dwelling.
          Memory memory, you house of punishment
where ugly big rooms & deserted landings echo
with the blare of loudspeakers whose stuck mechanism
won’t stop replaying the bitter point
of unanswered Eli Elis. The howl of the boy
who crashes down blinded by the sacred sickness.
The young murderer writhing in the deranged dormitory.
The Christian litany cut short in the hospital
store room, around the dead old Jewess
who’d waved the cross away with her delirious little hands.
WITHOUT THE COMFORTS OF RELIGION. This house is full of blood
but blood itself, all bloods, are nothing but larval vapours
conforming to the mind that bears witness to them.
And when the time of the requiem comes for you, so will it come for those
The unconsecrated Sunday fades away
the plague moons are waning already
the hedge of thorns sends forth new shoots, your senses peal out in five voices.
Hasten back, hasten back to meet your poor humdrum tomorrows,
your deathbound workaday body.
It’s supper time. O hunger for life, feed again
on the daily substance of slaughters.
Be born anew to forms & shared secrets & arbitrary choruses
to consciousness
to health
to the order of dates
to your own place.

No Revelation (Even when illegal, the show
always depends on the collective manufacturing of the arbitrary).
No sin (The contraption designed for torture
carries no blame for the tortures, O poor sinners).
And no special grace.
(The only common grace is patience
until the amen of consummation).
Go in peace, woman. Absolved, absolved, although a reoffender.
Good evening, good evening.
This Sunday too is gone.

translated from the Italian by Cristina Viti