Eugene Ostashevsky translating Elisa Biagini

La gita/The Outing

Un vento che m’impasta
col soffione, che mi
fonde le suole mentre
faccio la mia
cernita: quale sasso
ti ricorda, il suono
di quale sirena.

Adesso è il tempo della
miniera della terra
che mi sfiora il capo,
del parlare indurito,
della lampada spenta.

Scale dentro la roccia
grattano il fondo, dove
si sudano sassi e il cuore
gorgoglia.

Ci scendiamo in miniera,
seguendo briciole di
pirite, ci si scende
con gli occhi, coi ginocchi,
ci si scende a cercare
la traccia, la goccia
che ha segnato la pietra
col cadere, che fa la
memoria traboccare.

(ci sciogliamo
col caldo, goccia
a goccia, ci
rimpastiamo
al mare.
ci ritroviamo,
nodo nella
palpebra.)

Dentro ascolto il
legno del sostegno,
conto le micce che
aprono alla vista,
ci raduno prima
della volata,
                  ci cerco
nel buio e nel calore.

Ci cerco, a noi due:
tu nube di memoria,
io che mi sfuggo
come di mercurio,
tremito di termometro
che ingoio, vetro e tutto.

(Un treno dal buio,
un piede per binario,
un occhio accecato che
ti cerca,
            un treno
nel buio, che t’aspetta.)




poi



È il crepito
al respiro
ad annunciarti,
tutta la polvere
infilata negli
alveoli, ora
carta vetrata.

È il bagliore
di cerino dentro
all’occhio.

(la polvere che scende
dalle mine s’è
intrecciata al polmone e
ad ogni piano la
sacca è piú lisa,
piú pesa.)



in galleria (ancora febbre)

macchina che va a vuoto
e surriscalda,
l’affanno accelerato di chi
sente sfuggirsi,
lampadina che
sfrigola e svapora.



sfilarti il filo
rosso dalla scapola,
seguirti nelle
ossa della
terra
       oltre il confine
del labbro,
                noi,
rimossi dalla luce.

questo è un lavoro
di taglio e riempimento,
poco importa se sasso o

se parola.

*

A wind that kneads me
 with hot gas, that melts
my soles while
I pick: what stone
recalls you, the sound
of what siren.

Now is the time
of the mine, clay
grazing my head,
hard language,
lamp gone out.

Stairs in the rock
claw the bottom, where
skin sweats stones,
gurgles the heart.

We go down the shaft
along a trail of pyrite
crumbs, go down
with our eyes, knees, go
down to trail
the trace, drop
by dropping, making
memory overflow.

(we melt with
the heat, drop by
drop, we knead
back into the sea.
we meet again,
knots on
eyelids).

I listen inward
to the support beams,
count the fuses
that open the view, I
amass us
for the flight,
                  look for us
in the dark, in the heat.

I look for us two:
you, a cloud of memory,
me, fleeing
myself like mercury, that
tremor of a thermometer
I swallow, glass and all.

(A train from the dark,
a foot on each track,
an eye, blinded, that
looks for you,
a train
in the dark, that waits for you.)




then



It is the crackle
of breath
that announces you,
all the dust got into the
alveoli, now sandpaper.

It is the glow
of a match within
the eye.

(dust comes down
from the mines,
interlaces with lung, at
each floor the sack sags,
gets more threadbare.)



in the gallery (fever still)

a car running on
empty, overheating,
fast breath of the one that feels
that one flees, a light bulb
sizzles and goes out.

pulling the red
thread from your shoulder
blade, following you
in the earth
bones
beyond the frontier
of the lip,

us,
removed from light.

This, the labor
of cutting and filling,
what matter whether with stone

or word.

(translated by Eugene Ostashevsky.
from “Da una crepa”, Einaudi, 2014/
from “The Plant of Dreaming” forthcoming by Chelsea Editions/Xenos Books)

Translator's Note

The first thing about “La Gita” is that it probably should be called not “The Outing” but “The Inning,” since the journeys, or gite, it plots are inward: one, that of descending into a mine; the other, that of descending into a yours, which is also mine. Descent into the earth for a Florentine poet like Elsa Biagini has only one possible, but also inescapable, literary map, that of the Inferno, and in this very personal poem about her grandfather, a mining engineer also named Dante, the way through the claustrophobic insides of the mine is also the path of the soul against the current of time into memory, perhaps a memory that is not an unmediated, individual memory: a mine for me that itself is not mine. The soul proceeds through it feelingly.

I co-translated most of “La Gita” with the author. Some of the translation is the author’s English version lightly edited, some of it is me working from the Italian. The original was published in 2014 in Da Una Crepa, Elisa’s third collection with Einaudi, one of Italy’s most influential publishers, based in Turin. Material from the previous two Einaudi collections was translated for The Guest in the Wood, published in 2013 by Chelsea and the winner of the Best Translated Book Award for poetry.   

Eugene Ostashevsky

Eugene Ostashevsky is the author of, most recently, The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi, and the translator of The Fire Horse: Children’s Poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mandelstam, and Daniil Kharms, both available from New York Review Books, here.

Elisa Biagini

Elisa Biagini lives in Florence, Italy, after having taught and studied in the US for several years (Ph.D. Rutgers University). She has published seven poetry collections, most recently Da una crepa (2014). Her poems have been translated into many languages, and she has published editions of her poetry in Spain and the US (The Guest in the Wood, Chelsea editions, NY 2013 won the 2014 Best Translated Book Award). A translator from English (of Alicia Ostriker, Sharon Olds, Lucile Clifton among others), she has published an anthology of contemporary American poetry, Nuovi Poeti Americani (Einaudi, 2006) and  she has been invited to the most important international poetry festivals. She teaches Creative Writing-Poetry, Travel Writing, Literature, and Art History in Italy and abroad.  

www.elisabiagini.it

Next