Stefano Bortolussi

 

EXILIENCE

I.

You spend your time in your synapses,

from January to May when it is more visible

even to an eye turned to itself

— you wander along the horizons of Orion,

celestial California according to sources

less partial than yourself, greeting its stars

like old acquaintances, flighty and prone to implosion:

Betelgeuse the female in the middle,

Bellatrix the warrior, Rigel the brilliant blue-white,

the belt suggesting a waistline

that the town with its sign on the hills

would award with a contract for three features

— so when you challenge Ocean and Cronus and fly West,

its absence from the summer sky should not surprise you,

you should be content of trampling its terrestrial twin:

but the mental exile is defined by an absence,

by that slice of mislaid world,

by what you always think you’ll find

but that you lose, and then regret.

 

II.

The feeling on arrival is not one

of shed skin, abandoned by a reptile

that’s cold of blood and ingratitude:

it is something oblique, even twofold,

injected with guilt at the thought of true exile,

of those who leave an everything of tragedy

directed to the nothing of the unknown:

but the gash that opens up punctually

every time a flap rotates, a landing gear descends

and two giant wheels screech on the tarmac

is almost cumbersome, tactile in its presence,

and for days exudes the translucent serum

of laceration — and treating it is part

of the fractal emotion of being here,

West of yourself, and at the same time

there, from whence you left.

III.

Sometimes sleep begets more confusion

than repose, especially when it mocks you

lustrous and slippery and amphibious,

when it whets and recedes like foam at water’s edge:

and for the time it takes to sort out

your awakening’s bureaucracy

you can’t remember if it’s here or there

that the rear windows of home are spied by neighbors

looking at what you pack in your suitcase

or else greeted by the open vulva

chiseled into the rock south by southwest,

if the explosion of sounds in the night

is a chorus of cheers for a winning game

or a red-toothed skirmish of raccoons

in the thick of the privet in the backyard:

you can’t even recall the correlation itself

between the here and there, which one comes first

and which one follows, where is the arrival

and where the starting point: but it is then

that it occurs to you that this is you,

bicontinental ringer of yourself but still,

who knows for how long, traceable back to yourself.

IV.

You dress in white in honor

of the evening, as if to impersonate

someone that you’re not,

the non-existent seaman in his conquered peace

— you sit down facing this panel of sky

and just west of your left hemisphere

(the one, you seem to remember,

where language always lurks)

you feel hemmed in by this tree

that where you come from was thought

to cure malaria: grateful, you breath

the message that Nature compels it to bring

and for a moment you find it so explicit

that you believe it was intended just for you

— forgetting that all around you,

and down the canyon where the earth

surrenders to the waves, there is nothing left

that registers even the slightest trace

of what drives you, what governs you.

 

V.

You look at her and think:

she’s had the courage of the past,

and now has added a few months  

to a tally that goes back to an ancestral, forming time

onto the sediment of what makes her real, a body

stoked and ridden by a faraway breath

that stretches thin but never breaks:

her map has showed an unexpected backbone

— a jagged, sinuous line from the Baltic frost

to the mood swings of the Balkans —

and yet, however enticed you may be,

you can’t make up your mind and take the test.

Maybe you fear, inside the punctual envelope

or in the ethereal, virus-prone Web copy,

an all-too-clear answer to this seizing magnet

— maybe the simple power of some shared limestone,

the shattered coral memory of two oceans

flooding a karstic river in perennial flood,

a mighty coursing geology that does not befit

the pangs of your synapses: or maybe

you just dread the jolt of a not-quite-so-hidden metaphor

to the bridge of yourself, the one that links

the seismic past and future of two lands,

the ancestral and the elective.

 

Thus you defer, forever tottering

between there and here.

 

Bio:

 

Stefano Bortolussi is a poet, novelist and literary translator. In his native Italy he has published three poetry collections (Ipotesi di caldo, 2001; Califia, 2014; I labili confini, 2016) and four novels (Fuor d’acqua, 2004; Fuoritempo, 2007; Verso dove si va per questa strada, 2013; Billy & Coyote, 2017). His poetry has been also published in magazines and webzines, both Italian and international, such as Interno Poesia, Atelier, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Words for the Wild.

 

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