Stellar Body

Fabio Pusterla

Ermanno's Breath

Dear Ermanno, I have listened to
a Polish poet named Jaroslaw Mikolajewski
who read a poem that spoke of breath,
of his dead father's breath found in the cellar,
amazingly, inside an inflatable mattress
from thirty years before.

The breath, just think! the most fragile thing, of a man,
it stays behind sometimes, in the strangest places, and in the breath
maybe myriads of those tiny gnats float, those that looked happy
to you, or other scattered shapes

like little points of voice.

You too have left us a breath,
Ermanno, a breath and some lines.

Author's note: In memory of the poet Ermanno Krumm, who died too soon, while his book Respiro (Breath, Mondadori, Milano, 2005) was being published.


You don't know it, but I often wake up at night,
I lie for a long time in the dark,
and I listen to you sleeping next to me, as a dog does,
on the shore of slow water from which shadows
and reflections rise, silent butterflies.
Last night you spoke in your sleep,
almost whining, talking of a wall
too high to climb down, towards the sea
seen only by you, distant and gleaming.
Playfully I whispered, Just calm down,
it isn't all that high, we could make it.
You asked
whether down below there was sand to land on,
or black rock.
Sand, I answered, sand. And in your dream
maybe we dove together.

The Blackboard Janitor

One lesson after another, I go in, I erase
everything, it's years,
day after day of a whole life.
They may be graphs and formulas,
theorems that halt the wind in a model,
long series of numbers,
words that I don't read or understand.
And maybe my erasing, the humble
movement of sponge and shoulder,
even the little song I hum
when I lean on the glossy black or I rinse,
even the chalk dripping from my nails
like sperm, of which I carry the smell,
give birth to something I don't know, true and beautiful.

Zurich HB

The fox between the tracks is the color of iron,
of the dewy gravel and of the glass
scattered on the embankment, of the buildings.
Maybe she's looking for something,
maybe for nothing, and her lowered muzzle
brushes the debris slowly, not following any trails.
She's not afraid of the trains. She's oblivious
to all the traffic noises. She seems to have reached
a final point in her life,
lost beyond anywhere. And she walks here.

Lumière Museum

For some unknown reason, or for no reason at all
in the endless stretch of a winter prairie,
in almost-funny long greatcoats,
trusting their weapons to the grass,
oblivious of the steaming horses crowded on one another
and of possible enemies, and of the more-than-certain future massacres

a hundred, a thousand soldiers started to dance

frantically jumping into nothingness and slamming
the heels of their high boots on the hard turf and each
one's mouth was dislocated in a shout of joy or pain
while in the center two officers were mimicking

a wretched love dance, perhaps their last one.

Author's note: set in Lyon, in the villa and workshop of the Lumière brothers. The poem alludes to a filmed fragment, one of the very first moving pictures in the history of cinema.

translated from the Italian by Damiano Abeni and Moira Egan