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A sowing of the sky.

Nine fragments for Juan Carlos Ceci.

By Franca Mancinelli.

Translated from the Italian by John Taylor.


the rain—dense fabric
in which we are generated
from a warm color
and a cold color.

la pioggia—tessuto fitto
dove siamo generati
da un colore caldo
e un colore freddo.

water bears fruit
on the picked stems
in the vase by not dying
there’s blooming all the way to the bulb.

l’acqua dà frutto
agli steli raccolti
nel vaso a non morire
si sboccia fino al bulbo.

no longer with a corolla, the rose
of dawn sleeps—returning
with food in her beak
and receding into the unpainted
is the mother, a pigment that yields
blue to the water.

non ha più corolla, dorme
rosa d’aurora—torna
con il cibo nel becco
si allontana nel non dipinto
la madre, pigmento che cede
l’azzurro all’acqua.

here are the eyes—light-blue in you
they complete my portrait: a sowing
of the sky—mirror
facing each other we talk
like two opposite shores.

ecco gli occhi—celesti in te compiono
il mio ritratto: una semina
del cielo—specchio
a fronte ci parliamo
come due rive opposte.

you appear in my face
a rosier complexion
and my own years

a twilight dapples you
as when the blue
is the next day.

appari nel mio viso
carnagione più rosea
e gli stessi miei anni

una luce di tramonto ti screzia
come quando l’azzurro
è il giorno dopo.

comes to the surface
a clump of oxygen
to be colored with sky: seize it
and put it in the vase of life.

viene alla superficie
un mazzo di ossigeno
a colorarsi di cielo: coglilo
e mettilo nel vaso della vita.

I no longer have a body, you appear
dawn traveller
in the mossy steamy
room, I push you
aside like a curtain
touching my face,
give you back to the invisible.

non ho più corpo, appari tu
viaggiatore dell’alba
nella stanza di muschio
e vapore, scansarti
come una cortina
sfiorando il mio viso
cederti di nuovo all’invisibile.

it is the eye of the house in the fog
the porthole in which you return
disheveled child
in the ashy photos
I took a warm bath
and now on the walls
is the greenness of a path

I put on the white bathrobe
and you are the last circle to fade away.

è l’occhio della casa nella nebbia
l’oblò da cui ritorni
spettinato bambino
nelle foto di cenere
ho fatto un bagno caldo
e ora alle pareti
è il verde di un sentiero

metto l’accappatoio bianco
e sei l’ultimo cerchio a svanire.

coins are always lacking, the eternal
dissolves them in rain, dropping
to the next line the words
—it’s us the booth undresses
dust we dress in
to go back into the body—.

mancano sempre monete, l’eterno
le dissolve in pioggia, cadono
a capo le parole
—la cabina ci spoglia
della polvere ci veste
per rientrare nel corpo—.

These nine fragments were written for Juan Carlos Ceci’s exhibition Cabina per anima (A Cabin for the Soul), Traffic Gallery, Bergamo, Italy (5 May–6 September 2023).

was born in Fano, Italy, in 1981. She is widely considered to be one of the most important poetic voices to emerge in Italy during the past two decades. Her first two collections of verse poetry, Mala kruna (2007) and Pasta madre (2013), were awarded several prizes in Italy and later republished together, in John Taylor’s translation, as At an Hour’s Sleep from Here (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2019). Also available from The Bitter Oleander Press are her prose poems, The Little Book of Passage (2018), and a collection of narratives and personal essays: The Butterfly Cemetery: Selected Prose 2008-2021 (2022). Mancinelli’s fourth book in translation has just appeared: All the Eyes that I Have Opened (Black Square Editions), the original Italian version of which won two national prizes in Italy when it was published in 2020.

JOHN TAYLOR is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. Two of his books have appeared in the Odd Volumes series: his translation of Philippe Jaccottet’s Truinas, 21 April 2021 and his “double book” co-authored with the Swiss poet Pierre Chappuis, A Notebook of Clouds & A Notebook of Ridges. Besides his translations of Franca Mancinelli’s writing, his other recent translations include Jean Frémon’s Portrait Tales (Les Fugitives), Elias Petropoulos’s Mirror for you: Collected Poems 1967–1999 (Cycladic Press), Philippe Jaccottet’s La Clarté Notre-Dame & The Last Book of the Madrigals (Seagull Books), and two books by Pascal Quignard: The Unsaddled and Dying of Thinking (also Seagull Books).

JUAN CARLOS CECI was born in Zaragoza in 1967. He graduated in Psychology from the University of Bologna, and now lives and works in San Marino. His expressive medium focuses mainly on painting and drawing, with some approaches to sculpture. For his five paintings presented here:

Image 1. Untitled (detail), oil on canvas, 200 x 170 cm, 2022.
Image 2. The Walls Sing #1—with my same years, mixed media on canvas, 120 x 98 cm, Courtesy of Traffic Gallery (Bergamo, Italy), 2023.

Image 3. A Cabin for the Soul #4, oil on canvas, 30.5 x 25 cm, Courtesy of Traffic Gallery (Bergamo, Italy), 2023.
Image 4. A Cabin for the Soul #11—ascent, oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50 cm, Courtesy of Traffic Gallery (Bergamo, Italy), 2022.
Image 5. A Cabin for the Soul #6, oil on canvas, 30.5 x 25 cm, Courtesy of Traffic Gallery (Bergamo, Italy), 2023.

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