Carlo Massimo is a poet, journalist and translator. His work, in English and Italian, has appeared in The Account, Barzakh, Bitter Oleander, several times in La Piccioletta Barca, and other journals. He is translating the work of francophone Tunisian poet Mario Scalesi for the first time into English, and hopes to have it published by its centenary, 2023. Although his family home is Marsala, he was born in San Diego and works in Washington, DC.
This is where Europe ends,
at this depth cold as the Azores.
Colonus of fish, not-Thebes, not-Athens,
quiet and dim.
Water like fir trees, sand; Africa
Wrinkling toward Russia
Folding Phidias and the Mozia boy
Who but a dogfish would come here
to give birth? This is where Europe ends.
There are her children, yet to be born
Can you see them at this depth:
My picciotteddi, my little dogfish
Hidden in their shell, hidden there,
fibrous, nacreous, impossible to draw
mucus in filigree, bones of silk
a womb with teeth, the screw
This is where Europe begins.
My little dogfish, sleeping uneasy
In the sodden nets and armor of their birth
Stir in the dark
Casting ugly dreams like firelight
Against Ocean’s metal ceiling: look,
Hapag-Lloyd, Grimaldi float by,
Journey to the Little Camargue
In the yellow morning
I remembered Aigues-Mortes,
black bulls and gray horses,
sun without color.
At last the air is dry
At last the night is spent.
I want to see
They’ll be quitting the ring at Nîmes now
descending again to sea,
Like statues wrecked by salt.
I want to wade in dead water.
I want to rub sand from cows’ backs.
I want to be this light.
A gallery of statues.
Here is a young god,
Perhaps a Dioscurus.
Farther down they’re older.
Armless, faceless stone;
Pallas behind her porch
In wood: “a rude stake,
a shapeless effigy.”
Two broken bollards
Have empty cavities
For displaying severed heads,
holes like empty eyes
Whose gaze evades my own
…and outside, cattle
Drink the canal.
Greek France, Roman France,
I am surprised to hear you
I am surprised to see you
Different from myself.
t’es sûr qu’on n’a jamais
vu ce cœur?
The Parisienne of Knossos
All right, the desperation is over.
I can lay on my side on the floor tiles
as if I’d eaten too much.
You at your mirror are the Parisienne
of Knossos. I see you in profile
the coastline of your eyebrow
the gentle pause your nose makes
toward the tip, your skin the
skin of a plane tree or a cockle.
All right, my desperation is passed.
Your dark eyes look away without
Rancor. I feel I’m fading like paint.
Poetry in this post: © Carlo Massimo
Published with the permission of Carlo Massimo