Poetry corner - Cattafi

Poetry corner – Cattafi

Bartolo Cattafi was born in 1922 and died in 1979. He graduated in law but worked in advertising in Milan. He published numerous poetry collections; many of these were inspired by his travels through Europe and Africa. He was also influenced by the political events of his period, especially fascism and the horrors of WWII. Void and solitude were his recurrent themes. He died relatively young, without receiving much critical praise. Here is one of his sombre poems.

Come vanno le cose

Ti spiattello in faccia
come vanno le cose;
vanno male.
Benchè abbia perso lo spirito e la lettera
della fede in quella
sfera che tu conosci,
sono ancora inquieto.
Non mi tornano i conti, le misure, il modo
che ha il mondo di girare.
Ti faccio l’esempio dei consunti
oggetti: i caldi i cogniti
compagni delle nostre stanze
con qualcuno congiurano a mio danno,
mutano volto,
stranieri appena giunti a questa soglia,
allusivi e furbi,
ammiccanti con strane
luci negli occhi,
missive minacciose nelle mani.
E la foglia caduta
che un giorno colsi col piede e feci mia
s’è staccata
mi svolazza intorno mi rinfaccia
un corpo pesante
il passo del  mio piede.

Here is the translation found in The Penguin Book of Italian Verse:

How things are going

I throw in your face how things are going: they are going badly. Although I have lost the spirit and the letter of faith in that sphere that you know, I’m still troubled. Accounts don’t square, nor measures, nor the way the world turns. I give you the example of worn objects: the warm, the familiar companions of our rooms conspire with someone to my harm, change their look, aliens just arrived at this door, indirect and cunning, winking with strange lights in their eyes, threatening notes in their hands. And the fallen leaf which I gathered with my foot one day and made mine has broken away, it flutters around me, it taunts me with a heavy body, the step of my foot.

Yvette Devlin