Angolo della poesia – Cena domenicale, Paolo Totaro

Paolo Totaro was born in Naples in 1933 and lives in Sydney. After graduating in piano and Law, he moved to Turin to work in Fiat’s international department. This brought him to Australia in 1963. In the 1970s he started a successful career in the NSW public service and in 1977 was appointed Founding Chairman of the NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission, a position he held till 1989. Other positions held over the years include Director of Community Arts at the Australia Council, presenter of the SBS program ‘Face the Press’, visiting professor at the University of Western Sydney, and Pro-Chancellor at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Totaro also continued to play as a pianist and wrote poetry for most of his life, both in Italian and English. He also translated other poets’ works. The following poem Cena domenicale (and its translation – Sunday) is found in his Collected Poems (1950-2011).

Cena domenicale

Il tranquillo ripetersi dei gesti.
Prendi i piatti.
Apparecchia la tavola.
Allinea posate e salviette
oliera e saliera.
Bolli l’acqua.
Butta la pasta, cibo
di rigore per gli stanchi.
i colori che risorgono al quieto
consumarsi della cena domenicale.
Durò per anni.
Poi nessuno più venne.
Non c’è più il dolore
della loro partenza.


The tranquil repetition of gestures.
Take out the dishes.
Set the table.
Align forks and napkins
salt and pepper.
The water boils.
Add pasta, staple fare
to the weary. Take pleasure
in skin tones
warming in the quiet
consummation of a Sunday dinner.
So it was for years.
Now no one ever comes.
There remains no sorrow
at their departure.