Luciano Erba, born in Milan in 1922, was a poet, literary critic and translator. He graduated in French literature and lived abroad (Switzerland, France and the US) for over seven years. He taught French literature at high school and at university, and translated several works from French and English. In Milan he joined a group of intellectuals who met at the Milanese Blu Bar. His poems were first published in the early fifties and his poetry style was characterised as ‘realistic and at the same time metaphoric and hermetic.’

He won several prizes including the Viareggio Prize for Poetry in 1980 and the Bagutta Prize in 1988. He died in Milan in August 2010.

Il tranviere metafisico

Ritorna a volte il sogno in cui mi avviene

di manovrare un tram senza rotaie

tra campi di patate e fichi verdi

nel coltivato le ruote non sprofondano

schivo spaventapasseri e capanni

vado incontro a settembre, verso ottobre

i passeggeri sono i miei defunti.
Al risveglio rispunta il dubbio antico

se questa vita non sia evento del caso

e il nostro solo un povero monologo

di domande e risposte fatte in casa.

Credo, non credo, quando credo vorrei

portarmi all’al di là un po’ di qua

anche la cicatrice che mi segna

una gamba e mi fa compagnia.

Già, ma allora? Sembra dica in excelsis

un’altra voce.


I couldn’t find an official translation of this poem, so here is my attempt – a literary one.

The metaphysical tram driver

At times I have a recurring dream / in which I drive a tram without tracks / in fields of potatoes and green figs / in the tilled soil the wheels do not sink / I dodge scarecrows and huts / I go towards September  and in about October / the passengers are my own deceased. / On awakening the ancient doubt reappears / whether this life is but a chance event / and ours only a poor monologue / of questions and homemade answers. / I believe, I do not believe, when I believe / I wish I could bring to the afterlife a little from this life / also the scar that marks / my leg and keeps me company. / Well, but then what? Another voice /seems to say in excelsis. / Another?

Yvette Alberti