The Rage

Our final selection from the poetry books of City Lights Books is a poem by Pier Paolo Pasolini from the forthcoming collection entitled In Danger: A Pasolini Anthology. This anthology, which will be available in late August 2010, is edited by Jack Hirschman. We’re grateful to City Lights for sharing their wonderful wares with us this past week.

Next week, we conclude our celebration of National Poetry Month with the verse of Graywolf Press.



The Rage

I go to the gate of the garden, a sunken

little passageway of stone at ground

level, across from the suburban

orchard that’s been there since the days of Mameli, with its pines, its roses, its radishes.

Looking around, behind this paradise of village

tranquility, we see the yellow facades of the fascist

skyscrapers from the latest spate of buildings,

and looking lower, beyond some thick plates of glass

there’s a shed, sepulchral. Drowsing

in full sunlight, a bit chilly, is the grand orchard

with the little white nineteenth century house

in the center, where Mameli lies dead,

and a blackbird’s singing, weaving his web of intrigue.

This poor garden of mine, all

of stone…But I’ve bought an oleander

 —the new pride of my mother—

and vases of every kind of flower,

and a wooden frying-pan, an obedient,

rosy and malicious little Cupid statue

found at Porta Portese when looking for furniture for

                                               the new house. Colors?

A few, the season’s still so young: gold

splashes of light, and greens, all the greens…

Just a bit of red, menacing and splendid,

half-hidden, dour and without joy,

a rose. It hangs without fanfare

on the adolescent branch, as if gazing out of a spy-hole, a shy remnant of a paradise in pieces.

Nearby, and even more self-effacing, it seems we have

a poor thing, defenseless and naked,

a pure whim

of nature, who found herself in the air and the sunlight

alive but in a way that awes and humbles her

and makes her almost ashamed

to be so brazen

in her stark delicacy as a flower.

I get even closer and I smell her…

Ah! Shouting doesn’t say it and silence is no better:

nothing can express a whole existence!

I reject any attempt at it…I only know

that in this rose I could breathe,

in one single miserable instant,

the smell of my life, the smell of my mother…

So why don’t I react, why not tremble

with joy or exult in the pure anguish of it?

Why don’t I hail

this ancient knot of my existence?

I know why: because the demon of rage is locked

up in me by now. A small, mute, dark

feeling that intoxicates me:

an exhausting, they say, feverish impatience

in the nerves: but my mind’s no longer free.

The pain it gives me little by little alienates me

from myself so I just abandon myself

it takes on a life of its own, whirling around

as it wills while my pulse goes out of control

in my temples, my heart fills with pus,

I’m no longer master of my life.

Once, nothing could have beaten me.

I was cloistered in my life as in the maternal

womb, in that warm

smell of that simple wet rose.

But I fought to leave it behind, that provincial

countryside life, a twenty-year-old poet, always always

suffering desperately

and as desperately feeling joy…The battle ended

in victory. My private life’s

no longer closed up within petals of a rose,

—a house, a mother, an exhausting passion.

It’s public. But also the world which had been unknown

to me is now ordinary, familiar,

has become known and, little by little,

is now a brutal, necessary duty.

I can’t pretend now that I don’t know the world,

or that I don’t know how it wants me.

What type of love

are we talking about here, what sleazy deal.

Not a single flame burns in this inferno

of unfeeling, and this dry fury

that stops my heart

from responding to a smell is a cheap excuse

for passion…Almost forty years old

I find myself in a rage, like a young guy

who knows nothing of himself except that he’s young, and he goes to battle against the old world.

And like a young guy, without pity

or restraint, I don’t hide

this state I’m in: I’ll never have peace, never.

(1960. Translated by Jonathan Richman) 

Pier Paolo Pasolini, “The Rage” from In Danger: A Pasolini Anthology © 2010 by City Lights Books. Reprinted with the permission of City Lights Books, San Francisco, California.