Back to Italy. Back to Sweden. Colours, seasons, impressions and feelings melting into an intoxicating blend. I went to Italy meaning to stay there two weeks. The first days I was - as usual - struck by the gust of recognition: familiar things are both strikingly new and painfully familiar when you see them after some time. The colours slightly faded in the sun, the wild poppies and chamomile flowers, soft green maize fields. People: the loved ones, the known and unknown, a whirlpool of voices and memories that pierces the heart. The house, the silent objects that had been waiting, motionless, untouched. The spring already ripe and hot, the same smell and the same colours I breathed when I first came to the world. Everything so painfully beautiful, because I was there but I knew I would go away soon, and because I hadn't been there for a long time. I was both happy and sad, in the mood for tears and sudden smiles.
Then the earthquakes came, they accelerated time, turned hours into knots of anxiety and fearful alertness. I'm not used, I was not prepared, I didn't know what I was supposed to do. The last (relatively) big quake in my area dates back to 1570. TV and newspapers showed collapsed buildings, destroyed industrial sites with dead people under them, broken towers and crumbled churches, cracks in streets and corn fields. People living in tents, all schools closed. We slept on the sofa with clothes on, ready to run out (but is it really the right thing to do?). People were talking about it all the time, everywhere. I was afraid for my daughter. I couldn't sleep, I lost 2 kilos in 3 days.
And now I'm suddenly in Sweden again. Summer disappeared: 5 degrees and rain.
When I arrived in Italy, before the quakes, when I was still voraciously savouring the feeling of "being there", I thought I wanted to read some Italian author. So I picked some books from my shelves. Giorgio Bassani, Michela Murgia, and Cesare Pavese. All very different, all very Italian. On the plane yesterday, besides Andersen for my daughter, I read Pavese's poems. Some I liked, I found what I was looking for. I don't exactly know what it was, but I found it. I will soon write more posts about the authors I mentioned, but for now I will share the English translation of one of the poems I read and liked on the plane.
Passion for Solitude
BY CESARE PAVESE
TRANSLATED BY GEOFFREY BROCK
I'm eating a little supper by the bright window.
The room's already dark, the sky's starting to turn.
Outside my door, the quiet roads lead,
after a short walk, to open fields.
I'm eating, watching the sky—who knows
how many women are eating now. My body is calm:
labor dulls all the senses, and dulls women too.
Outside, after supper, the stars will come out to touch
the wide plain of the earth. The stars are alive,
but not worth these cherries, which I'm eating alone.
I look at the sky, know that lights already are shining
among rust-red roofs, noises of people beneath them.
A gulp of my drink, and my body can taste the life
of plants and of rivers. It feels detached from things.
A small dose of silence suffices, and everything's still,
in its true place, just like my body is still.
All things become islands before my senses,
which accept them as a matter of course: a murmur of silence.
All things in this darkness—I can know all of them,
just as I know that blood flows in my veins.
The plain is a great flowing of water through plants,
a supper of all things. Each plant, and each stone,
lives motionlessly. I hear my food feeding my veins
with each living thing that this plain provides.
The night doesn't matter. The square patch of sky
whispers all the loud noises to me, and a small star
struggles in emptiness, far from all foods,
from all houses, alien. It isn't enough for itself,
it needs too many companions. Here in the dark, alone,
my body is calm, it feels it's in charge.