Claude Cahun and their “Héroïnes”

As our museums still nowadays seem to showcase, sometimes it’s harder to be remembered in art history if you were born a woman.
Proverbial for their chameleonic abilities, their ambiguity in sexual identity and orientation, their sinuous swimming and slippering among multiple art media, Claude Cahun stood their whole artistic life for the defense and exploration of uninvestigated points of view.

Lesbian, non-binary, extreme leftist, Claude Cahun -née Lucy Renée Mathilde Schwob- was born on October 25th, 1894 in Nantes, the niece of writer Marcel Schwob and great-niece of orientalist David Léon Cahun.
Due to their mother’s mental illness, Lucy was raised by their maternal grandmother, Mathilde.
After attending the faculty of Literatures at vibrant Sorbonne in Paris, Lucie changed their name into the gender neutral Claude Cahun, managing thus to escape the first of a series of fundamental gender-binding frames.
Mirroring a doppelgänger scheme so often recurring in Cahun’s life, also their sister and lifetime lover Suzanne Malherbe adopted the synonym Marcel Moore.
But Cahun doesn’t fit in the stereotype of the sapphic, nor troubled artist.
At a first remark, their work spreads through different media -theater, journalism, sculpture and photography.
In second instance, their aesthetics being ascribed to the canons of Surrealism, they devised a ploy in order never to deliver an ultimate outline of the system Cahun.
Their photographic self-portraits reach the observer through the sieve of makeup, stage props, costumes, curtains and screens that make it a riddle to decipher the location, time and facial features of the moment in which the picture was taken.
It is as if Cahun’s wish is to build their identity through a layering of interpretations, assumptions and critiques coming from the outside, more than through an assertive statement of her inner ego. And the resolute abstention from confirming which observer’s guess was correct forces their audience to repeatedly confront and lose trust in their mental categories.
Is the artist a doll? A circus artist? A lusty mistress in her boudoir? A mischievous tomboy? Which is the sentiment that should seal our final judgement: complicity, scandal, pity, hate, love?
Cahun proposes, but doesn’t tell. It’s not the artist’s job to point out how we should, if we should at all, think differently of each personality. That is a moral dispute that is consumed in the heart of the viewers, who more often than wished will find themselves either falling into the trap of a compulsion to repeat, or having to dramatically redesign their reality reading schemes.

Claude Cahun, “I am in training, don’t kiss me”, black and white photograph, 53×40 cm, 1927, St. Helier, Jersey, Jersey Heritage Collections

If Cahun had glasses, their lenses would have the shape of a kaleidoscope, and they would play the part of an unreliable narrator. And such a figure is mandatory for the safeguard of intellectual honesty, especially during their own times, since the whole human history was turning out to be the biased narrative of men, who celebrated their similars and disqualified women as nuisances, sorceresses, obstacles to the greater good pursued by their male peers.
But -what if we could watch closer?
What if we could be allowed in famous households, where infamous héroïnes have been secluded, not to overshadow the glory of their renewed companions?
Probably, we would discover we didn’t know the whole story, and this is the theme of Cahun’s Héroïnes, published in February 1925 on the prestigious literary magazine Mercure de France.

As in for Eve, la trop crédule (Eve, the too gullible one), we learn that the original sin is just a side effect of a too convincing product marketing.
Eve, portrayed as a candid housewife with a positivist faith in Capitalism, still has enough critical sensibility to admit that, in order to improve her life, she would need a miracle, or just… more money (“Ah! Si seulement Adam me donnait plus d’argent de poche!“).
She is attracted to a fruit that promises to instill knowledge and emancipate her from her status of middle-class housewife; to endow her companion with sexual energy (“Oh dommage, trop cher! Vraiment, j’aurais aimé lui donner ça. Il en a tant besoin, le pauvre chéri…“); to make her come forward with creative skills, even if this would mean being guilty of hubris, since creativity was arbitrarily passed by God onto Adam so that he could irradiate his superiority on the planet (“Pourquoi ne le ferais-je pas? Pourquoi pas moi? Qu’est-ce qu’il dirait de voir sa petite femme devenue grande peintre, grand poète, la gloire du Paradis?“).
The more she speculates on the fruit, the more she is unable to determine what is so despicable about it -the more the reason, the fact that the serpent reminds her that “le père n’y connait rien. Il n’est pas gourmand“.
The intelligence duet performed by Eve and the serpent reflects a mindset of true scientific method: they find out that not only tasting the fruit doesn’t seem to potentially bring any damage to Eve’s life -made exception for the Father’s anger-, but also that the prohibition itself has its sole root in the Father’s bigotry.
Eve proves furthermore to be compassionate: unlike Adam and God, Eve is ready to share her knowledge (“Je ne suis pas égoïste, moi!”), which is not granted to her from above, but that she conquers putting her own life at risk.
In this sense, Eve is a new mythological Prometheus, giving a new eschatological meaning to rebellion.

Dalila, femme entre les femmes, prosecutes the doubtful mission of Eve by pointing out how exaggeratedly insecure Samson’s culture of reference must be, if he is supposed to have lost his masculinity together with his hair.
A man whose vigor was so forcefully tied to his hairdo, probably never had any, and she refuses to be blamed for Samson’s ruin, just because she walked over a silly superstition.
Her sarcastic intensity peaks when she ironically declares that she’s also ready to give up her equally non-existing masculinity and undergo circumcision before a lay audience (“Ce soir, je te le jure, par le grand Prêtre lui-même, devant nos peuples réunis, moi, Dalila l’infidèle, je me ferai CIRCONCIRE”).

Claude Cahun, “Untitled (Claude Cahun in Le Mystère d’Adam), gelatin silver print, 7.62×10.16 cm, 1929, San Francisco, SFMoMA

Judith, la sadique, is the daughter born from the union of Eros and Thanatos: her undeniable sexual charge is paired together with the arousal she experiences while having the chance of destroying the man who lays in her bed.
Dreaded by Holofernes as if she was a mantis, Cahun’s Judith has a moment of being when she notices a crescendo of pleasure as long as she has physical power over other creatures.
She kneels to collect from the ground a little hurt bird and acknowledges the bliss she feels whilst having a living, defenseless creature in her hands.
It’s clear that she only comes second to this conclusion: the face of her lover comes to her mind and suddenly, those tired, dull, weak features (“ces yeux morts, si lents -des yeux petits, étroits, aux paupières énormes ; ce menton charnu mais point trop saillant ; cette bouche bestiale aux lèvres sensuelles, mais de la même peau, semble-t-il, que le reste du visage“) come together signifying not only Holofernes’s unsuitability to the role of hefty lover, but also the admission of his inferiority, his subjection to Judith’s letal seduction.
Again, Cahun’s male anti-heroes come across as potentially sex phobic, cautious, but hence incapable of even imagining the thousands forms joy can take.
And on the other hand, ineptitude is complementary to Judith’s desires. She is not curious about her similars, with whom the idea of danger is out of question (“Et voici mes frères! Ceux là n’ont rien à craindre, car ils me font horreur“).
Judith testifies Cahun’s horror towards the self-absorbed bourgeoisie of their times. A society that doesn’t confront its secret drives and it’s not ready for diversity is a society that gives up on its self-preservation, is doomed to eradicate a risky, yet rewarding instinct of reproduction and it sets up for extinction.
Ironically enough, when Judith and Holofernes’s mating ends with the homicide of the latter, the people of Israel are ready to celebrate their queen, who is instead saddened: the encounter and radical physical fusion with the other was for Judith a private claim for pleasure, whereas Israel conveys to history a miscalculated interpretation, as if Judith’s sexual conduct had been a resolute elimination of every difference, propelled by fear and hatred.

Claude Cahun, “Self portrait”, 1927, New York, Grey Art Gallery

Helen of Troy is Cahun’s most modern heroine. Dismantling already in the opening the myth of Helen’s beauty, Cahun gives voice to a glamorous, charming and smart social climber.
Je sais bien que je suis laide, mais je m’efforce de l’oublier. Je fais la belle“.
Bulding from scratch her persona for glossy magazines, Helen confesses that her boasted birth from Jupiter and Venus is a preposterous lie. She adds up to her value by stating that no mortal would ever be worthy of lying with her, thus triggering a ruthless competition among men who want to establish their status quo.
When eventually Menelaus gets to marry her, a new branding is launched and Helen rises to the function of trophy wife.
Her first rebellion involves Agamemnon, who turns out not to be at all fascinated by Helen, but only willing to complete a humiliating vendetta towards his brother.
After accepting to undergo additional courses for the formation of her public image, she decides to rebel against her patron, Menelaus. The role of great woman supporting an even greater man simply doesn’t suit her anymore: she sleeps with Priam et ses fils and flees away from a destiny of manipulation.
It is poignant that the male figure who is appointed as her alter-ego, the only one who doesn’t bend to her spell, is Ulysses, the archetype par excellence of cunning, resourceful intelligence.
Cahun operates in this way a long-waited, equal redistribution of mental capabilities. The Odyssey transmitted to posthumous generations Ulysses’s unmistakable quick wit; Cahun writes the missing page of the epic, giving back to memory the equally brilliant mind of Helen.

I Extend My Arms 1931 or 1932 Claude Cahun 1894-1954 Purchased 2007

Sappho, the following heroine, is a tragic mirror of Helen and it embodies the bundle of heartbreaking lies women have to tell to survive in a men’s world.
Sappho’s story is much more tactfully narrated and it probably gives voice to Cahun’s moral torment -can a woman pursue happiness by fully expressing her own self, or can she only aspire to partial contentedness, by keeping her real aspirations as a private affair and displaying publicly the mother and wife is expected of her by common conventions?
Foretold as sterile, Sappho adopts a child and pretends it’s her own, in order not to be repudiated by her husband. Marriage is in fact the toll she has to pay to continue being accepted as a still relevant human being and dedicating her efforts to her real Muse: poetry, and everything that revolves around creativity.
Cahun here reveals not to be ready to embrace avant-garde pride for homosexuality, or more probably, she refuses to reduce Sappho’s powerful lyricism to a LGBT icon: Cahun’s Sappho is the victim of gossip, because of her unconventional, rough beauty and her poetic genius, which makes her an apprehended rival for rising stars, such as her lover and poet Alcaeus.
And even her next lovers, intimidated by the popularity Sappho has among self-assured, confident women, make it an excuse to disrespect her untamed creativity and choose the weapon of slut-shaming: she has chlamydia and her reputation is depicted on the boorish clothes that she wears.
Once more abandoned, Sappho comes to the conclusion that her urge for creation will only produce excruciating loneliness. She won’t ever be understood, therefore she will never be able to keep the comfort of a companion by her side.
Quand on rénonce à créer, il ne rest plus qu’a détruire“.
Uncompromising on an existence where she would have to choose between authenticity or acceptance, Sappho decides to stay true to herself, and jumps from the cliff of Leucade.

Claude Cahun, “Aveux non avenus”, gelatin silver print, 38.5×26 cm, 1929-30, private collection

The following heroine of the cycle has all the resemblance of an anti-hero.
Margaret, the candid girl abducted to Goethe’s Faust by Mephistopheles, confesses under Cahun’s spotlight that all her misadventures were the consequences of fully conscious choices.
Upholding the truthfulness of something such as body autonomy, Margeret l’incestueuse reveals that her sexual maturity began way before than Goethe’s gruesome pages.
While playing with her brother, Valentin, Margaret daydreams about her own harem of men, while laying the brother’s toy soldiers on her lap and picturing herself quenching their thirst with her own saliva.
Projecting those fantasies onto the only boy that she knows in flesh and bones, she ranks her brother Valentin as the captain of those soldiers, the one who deserves special consideration.
Valentin seems to reciprocate such attentions, especially when sensually combing the sister’s hair on her naked back.
As soon as Valentin actually does join the army, Margaret is reassured that their role-play game can continue: she will play the part of a grieving princess, longing for the return of her hero, to finally escape any fear and frailty.
But once again, romance is weaker than sex. As soon as Valentin is far from her sight, her mind is free to wonder on the prowess of new visitors.
And at this point, she’s ready to fall for an even more devilish rapture, the one for Faust -who is actually a sop for Mephistopheles, the transgression personified, who is turned away by Faust who fears his competition.
Ne pas respecter l’opinion publique est toujours un signe d’effronterie incompatible avec la réserve et la mesure que doivent garder tous les actes des femmes équilibrées et respectables“.
Once back, Valentin is blinded by jealousy and orders the sister to kill her newborn baby, without knowing it’s his own child.
Then, jailed for homicide, Margaret can finally recognize that she has been used as a scapegoat to bring the burden not only of her shortcomings, but also of the sexual misconduct and violence of men in her life.
Comment des hommes osent-ils me condamner, et surtout s’ils ont des soeurs? Savez-vous donc, o Juges, savez vous ce-qui vous attende?
Margaret implies in her closing sentence that she believes in the justice of a superior court, where men will be held at the end of their days, and hopefully be reminded of the pain and loneliness they inflicted on a single individual, just because she happened to be a woman, a human being so easy to blame and forget in a men dominated world.

Claude Cahun, “Untitled”, photograph, 19.1×24.4 cm, 1939, Paris, Collection Christian Bouqueret

The last heroine has probably the most cryptic story, with which is difficult to sympathize at a first reading.
Salome, the voluptuous dancer who performed before Herod and beheaded John the Baptist, is revealed to be an artist, disappointed by the coming-of-age during which she understands that most artists imitate life, instead of crafting new realities.
Even those who declare to avoid Realism and to do Art for Art’s Sake, just waste their time on Earth by camouflaging present subjects to level them with the standards of ideal beauty.
Cahun mocks this model of tormented, anarchic, outcast masculinity: in her artist colleagues, Cahun discerns the defeat of courage, ambition, creative genius overall (“Se croyant tous destructeurs, bâtisseurs, méconnus, maudits, parricides, incendiaires -comme ils s’intimident eux-mêmes!“).
After having seen on stage at the theater a painted carton of the head of a prisoner, Salome provokes Herod to find out whether he appreciates this art form, and ascertained that he also is a keen defender of Realism, she obtains that the decapitated head of John the Baptist is brought to her for comparison.
The horror of the homicide proves a series of points that were part of Salome’s path towards disillusion.
L’art, la vie: ça se vaut“. A type of art that so closely imitates life can’t but leave great souls indifferent.
Moreover, the audience who is fond of Realism too often turns out to be weak, hypocrite and mean: they insult art by making it an apotropaic canvas for their nastiest passions, being unable to fulfill them in real life.
Herod is aghast when he is presented John’s head on a silver platter, despite “Il n’aime pas qu’on parle du prisonnier, dont il est jaloux“.
At last, Salome comprehends that all along she had been searching the absolute quintessence of an artist, when she already was that herself:
Ils disent que je tournoie, tantôt sur les paumes, tantôt sur les orteils, comme une acrobate -car ils ne savent pas voir. Je suis sirène ou serpent et me tiens dressée sur ma queue: je suis un oiseau, un ange, et dance légèrement sur la pointe endurcie de mes ailes“.
All along, she has been able to transform herself into something else, creating around herself images of ambiguity, disorientation and magic.

Claude Cahun, “Self portrait”, gelatin silver print, 30×40 cm, 1928, St. Helier, Jersey Heritage Collections

Behind Salome’s veils, amid her fast spinning, hidden in her hypnotic music, Claude Cahun has signed their manifesto.
As a lesbian woman in the male dominated art scene of 1920s, but also later on as a political opposer in the France invaded by Nazis, Cahun holds onto art as a means of survival and assertiveness.
In disguise, wearing multiple masks and speaking their voice through the microphone of Eve, Dalila, Judith, Helen, Sappho, Margaret and Salome, Claude Cahun left behind an artistic heritage that is for seekers.
Witty but not caustic, ironic but never laughable, Cahun still speaks to us a hundred of years later, teaching us the mastery of watching closer and discussing without yelling.
As for her Salome, the conversation Cahun strives to start with their readers introduces a never-before-explored modality: they gently suggest possible worlds, where we can close our eyes and slowly recuperate the voices of those obscured by history; and for once, we can simply shut up and listen, because people who are depositories of their truth don’t feel the need to scream, they simply narrate their story in a low voice.

-Claude Cahun, Héroïnes, in Mercure de France, n. 639, February 1, 1925, Paris, Gallimard
-Claude Cahun, Écrits, curated by François Leperlier, Les Nouvelles éditions Place, Paris, 2002
-Wikipedia, Claude Cahun


Nastas’ja Philipovna

«Pareva che volesse risolvere l’enigma di quel viso, che già lo aveva colpito una prima volta. Quell’impressione gli si era fitta nell’anima, e perciò cercava ora di provarla di nuovo e di analizzarla. Quel viso, singolarissimo per bellezza e per qualcos’altro, lo colpì questa seconda volta ancora più forte. Portava impresso un orgoglio sconfinato insieme con un disprezzo che rasentava l’odio, e nel tempo stesso era semplice, fiducioso, quasi ingenuo: strano contrasto, che vi svegliava dentro un senso di pietà. Una bellezza abbagliante e quasi insopportabile: un viso pallido, emaciato, illuminato da due occhi che gettavano fiamme. Il principe lo fissò per un minuto, poi si riscosse, si guardò intorno, si accostò rapidamente il ritratto alle labbra e lo baciò.»

L’idiota, F. Dostoevskij

«It was as if he wanted to unriddle something hidden in that face which had also struck him earlier. The earlier impression had scarcely left him, and now it was as if he were hastening to verify something. That face, extraordinary for its beauty and for something else, now struck him still more. There seemed to be a boundless pride and contempt, almost hatred, in that face, and at the same time something trusting, something surprisingly simple-hearted; the contrast even seemed to awaken some sort of compassion as he looked to those features. That dazzling beauty was even unbearable, the beauty of the pale face, the nearly hollow cheeks and burning eyes -strange beauty! The prince gazed for a moment, then suddenly roused himself, looked around, hastily put the portrait to his lips and kissed it.»

The Idiot, F. Dostoevskij

Nastas’ja Philipovna, September 2019, ink, crayon and watercolor on paper

Il calabrone – The Bumblebee

Roteando tra le mani
l’incomprimibile nocciolo di tenebra
ascolto questo tinnito
che mi perseguita
come quando rovistando tra i cassetti
cerchiamo un carillon inceppato
che non smette di suonare

Da dove arriva questa smania
di smorzare le litanie
con un sibilo più velenoso?
Sembra di nuotare
in un mare di latte
dove anche immergendosi
alla ricerca di crostacei trasparenti
tutto è offuscato, impenetrabile

Questa chimera
del mutuo riconoscimento
non passa che dalla rabbia
dall’agitare la voce
come il tirso di una baccante
dall’evocare le Erinni
in ogni sussurro

Rimangono più impressi
gli atti recitati
fuori di personaggio
le profanità incise
sulla facciata di una chiesa

Non bisogna, non bisogna, non bisogna
tradire il segreto
delle nostre piccole ribellioni quotidiane

Ho lanciato una pietra
per frantumare la mia finestra
mi hanno lasciato
dormire al freddo
e come effetto collaterale
ho imparato ad accendere il fuoco
e propagarlo
ai tetti delle case
dei miei maestri, che dormono

La mia intera educazione
è un’ustione inguaribile
che governo come
un maldestro Nerone

Da notti immemori attendo
i miei maestri uscire
urlando che la casa è in fiamme
ma essi dormono, dormono
chissà cosa sognano
dietro quelle palpebre di buio compatto
e un lieve ronzio di fondo
come se un accattone cercasse
di sottrarli al dormiveglia

Così è la mia rabbia,
un innocuo battere d’ali
che si abbatte con uno schiaffo
noncurante dello sforzo del calabrone
che si alza in volo
sfidando la gravità del proprio peso
e la ridicola peluria
tra cui protegge il polline prezioso
non avendo a sua difesa
che un povero pungiglione.


Juggling between my hands
the incompressible kernel of darkness
I listen to this tinnitus
that haunts me
like when going through the drawers
we look for a jammed music box
that does not stop playing
Where does this eagerness
to dampen the litanies
with a more poisonous hissing
come from?
It’s like swimming
in a sea of milk
where even by diving
in search of transparent crustaceans
everything is blurry, impenetrable

This chimera
of mutual recognition
it only passes through anger
through agitating the voice
like the thyrsus of a bacchante
through evoking the Furies
in every whisper

They remain more impressed,
those acts that are played
out of character
those profanities engraved
on the facade of a church

One shouldn’t, shouldn’t, shouldn’t
betray the secret
of our little daily rebellions

I threw a stone
to shatter my window
they simply
left me
sleeping in the cold
and as a side effect
I learned how to light a fire
and propagate it
to the roofs of the houses
of my masters, who are asleep

My entire education
is an incurable burn
that I govern as
an unfit Nero

Ever since time immemorial I have waited
for my masters come out
screaming that their house is on fire
but they sleep, they sleep
who knows what they dream of
behind those eyelids of compact darkness
and a slight buzz in the background
like a beggar trying
to take them out of drowsiness

Just like that is my anger,
a harmless beating of wings
which gets defeated with a slap,
not heedful of the bumblebee’s effort
who soares to fly
defying the gravity of its own weight
and the ridiculous hair
among which it protects the precious pollen
not having in its defense anything
else than a poor stinger.

Testa clausa

Non perdonerò più
Voi che mi avete ferito
Scheggiato come il guscio di un uovo,
Tenuto con il capo
Sotto l’acqua bollente
Sinché non si formi una conchiglia,
Opaca a sufficienza da nasconderlo
Fragile quel che basta
Per frantumarlo

Dal dolore non mi è nata
Alcuna madreperla
Sono rimasti solamente spifferi
Da cui entra una pioggia battente
E ora le tegole sono marce
Non ho modo di ripararle

Mi avete costretto ad abitare
Come un gerride pattinatore
Sullo specchio di una pozzanghera
All’interno di un vaso bucato

Mi avete instillato la convinzione
Che se rischio di affogare
È perché non scalpito abbastanza

Con quale maestria
Avete orchestrato l’illusione
Incapsulando nella stessa palla di vetro
I miei fratelli
I miei compagni
Gli amici e gli amori che scelgo
Somiglianze e differenze
Studiate a tavolino
Per rassicurarmi che ogni sopruso è normale
E una volontà diversa
È sintomo di follia

Dovrei accontentarmi
Delle briciole di pane
Che paiono slavine, da quaggiù
Ogni volta che mi rimpicciolite

Dovrei dissetarmi
Delle ultime gocce di fango
E non chiedermi mai
Che sapore abbia l’acqua

Il vostro errore di calcolo
è l’aver dimenticato
Che anche il più reietto dei prigionieri
Vede attraverso le sbarre
Svolgersi la vita
Che gli avete negato
Promettendogli di tenerlo al sicuro
Su un piedistallo di alabastro

La più piccola creatura di Dio
Vede, se non ha orecchie
Ode, se non può parlare
Tocca, se non può addentare
Odora rose neroli crisantemi
E li distingue dal letame
E se essa stessa è letame
Sa che non è la preghiera
O il docile silenzio
A trasformarla in un giardino
Ma l’inguaribile tendersi verso il sole
La siccità, che spaura per l’assenza d’acqua
L’uomo chino a osservare
E accettare la natura
Di ciò che gli promette
Mani colme di papaveri.


I’ll never forgive again
You who have wounded me
Splintered like the shell of an egg,
With its head held
Under boiling water
Until a skin is formed,
Opaque enough to hide it
Fragile enough
To crush it

No mother-of-pearl
Is born out of my sorrow
All that was left were drafts
From which comes a pouring rain
And now the tiles are rotten
I have no way to repair them

You forced me to live
Like a water skeeter
On the mirror of a puddle
Inside a holed vase

You instilled in me the conviction
That if I risk drowning
It’s because I don’t paw the ground enough

With what prowess
You orchestrated the illusion
Encapsulating in the same snow globe
My brothers
My companions
The friends and loves I choose
Similarities and differences
A game that you fixed
To reassure me that any abuse is normal
And a different will
Is a symptom of madness

I should just settle
For breadcrumbs
That look like avalanches, from down here
Every time you make me smaller.

I should quench my thirst
With the last drops of mud
And never wonder
What water tastes like

Your miscalculation
is that you have forgotten
That even the most outcast of the prisoners
Can see through the bars,
Unfolding, the life
That you denied them
Promising to keep them safe
On an alabaster pedestal

God’s smallest creature
Sees, if it has no ears
Hears, if it cannot speak
Touches, if it cannot bite
Smells roses neroli chrysanthemums
And it distinguishes them from the manure
And if it is manure itself
It knows it’s not prayers
Or the docile silence
To turn it into a garden
But the incurable stretching out to the sun
Drought, which scares for the absence of water
The man bending down to observe
And to accept the nature
Of what promises him
Hands full of poppies.


Per un assente – To an absent

Quello che non hai visto
Lo vedrai attraverso i miei occhi
Capisco perché te ne sei andato
Non ci si abitua mai
Alla mancanza di bellezza
Il prezzo è la morte
Abbandonare il proprio corpo
A preda di brutture
Lasciarlo invecchiare
Dai soldi, dal lavoro, da un divorzio
E da tutto il resto
Che non ci appartiene

Ciò che reclama attenzione
Sono i globuli rossi, le lacrime
I pugni nel muro
Le tue dita spezzate
Impazienti di guarire
Quando eri ancora bambino
E ti aggrappavi ai palloni pesanti
Con artigli di diavolo
Per scagliarli con perfidia
Addosso ai tuoi compagni
Pupazzetti ottusi
Impermeabili alla rabbia

Ti abbiamo lasciato indietro
Ci spaventava la tua ostinazione
La tua incapacità di mentire a te stesso
Almeno per Natale, almeno per assomigliare agli altri
Per far contenti i tuoi genitori
Perché eri il prezzo da pagare per un grande errore.

Avessi avuto un po’ di grazia
Lineamenti meno affilati
Parole meno compatte
Volontà più fragili
Ti avremmo convinto a diventare come noi
Un animale da compagnia
Da invitare alle cene
Un aneddoto sopra le righe
E di nuovo a rannicchiarsi
Tra gli altri scarafaggi

Dovremo abituarci
A conviti silenziosi
E sproloqui isterici
Ci innervosiremo per il tuo ritardo
E il tuo bicchiere vuoto
Ma non potremo più raccontarci
Che è l’ennesimo scherzo

Se sarai dietro la porta
A sogghignare del nostro imbarazzo
Ti mostrerò che posso farcela
Tra gesti stanchi, assopiti
Un sorriso genuino
Richiamerà il tuo nome
La resistenza, gli sforzi
La disillusione
La fatica onesta
La progettualità disperata
Le solitudini da ingannare con qualche viaggio
lontano o in auto, verso casa
La comunanza umana
Con le sue imperfezioni

Ricominciare daccapo ogni volta
Perché non esiste alternativa
Tutto sarà sempre sbagliato e provvisorio
Come scrivere in un’altra lingua
Non passare un esame
Essere licenziati
Tradire il tuo compagno
Non avere veri amici
Dubitare il proprio talento
Scoprirsi brutti, senza attrattiva

Scegliere una vita a caso,
e non saperne altro avanti
Rinunciare a ogni destino
Che non sia quello della mediocrità
Sarà stato tutto vano e ridicolo
Ma non potrò farci niente
Vorrò mostrarti quello che hai lasciato
Immaginarti a fianco di mio fratello
Mentre gli fai domande, ammirato
Dalla sua perseveranza
E dalla bontà dei suoi sentimenti
Incredulo della sua malinconia
Furioso perché è così dimentico di sé
E prodigo del suo tempo

Voglio che ti laceri senza schermi
La potenza del nostro amore
Tenero e miserabile
Voglio che tu sappia
Che non ti dimentichiamo
Ti pensiamo ogni giorno
E non possiamo farci niente

Ora che non ci sei
è imperativo vivere
Raccogliere le tue cose, perché non vengano calpestate
Ci prenderemo cura di te
Faremo del nostro meglio
Ti prometto che questa volta
Sarà abbastanza


What you haven’t seen
You’ll see through my eyes
I can see why you left
One never gets used to
The lack of beauty
The price is death
Abandoning one’s body
A prey to ugliness
Let it grow old
By the money, the work, a divorce
And by everything else
That does not belong to us

What demands attention
It’s the red blood cells, the tears
The fists in the wall
Your broken fingers
Impatient to heal
When you were still a kid
And you were clinging to the heavy balloons
With devil’s claws
To hurl them with treachery
On your peers
Dull puppets
Impervious to anger

We left you behind
We were afraid of your stubborness
Your inability to lie to yourself
At least for Christmas, at least to look like the others
To make your parents happy
Because you were the price to pay for a big mistake

Had you had a little bit of grace
Less sharp features
Less compact words
Fragile wills
We would have convinced you to become like us
A pet
To invite to dinners
An anecdote over the top
And then to crouch again
Among the other cockroaches

We’ll have to get used to it
To the silent feasts
And the hysterical ramblings
We’ll get nervous about your delay
And your empty glass
But we won’t be able to tell each other any more
That’s yet another joke

If you’re behind the door
To sneer at our embarrassment
I’ll show you I can do it
Amid tired, sleepy gestures
A genuine smile
Will call up your name
The resistance, the efforts
The disillusionment
The honest labor
The desperate planning
The loneliness to be deceived with a few trips
far away or by car, aiming home
The human commonality
with its imperfections

To start over every time
Because there is no alternative
Everything will always be wrong and temporary
Such as writing in another language
Failing an exam
Being fired
Betraying your partner
Not having real friends
Doubting one’s talent
Discovering yourself ugly, without attractiveness

Choosing a life randomly,
and not knowing any less ahead
Renouncing all destinies
That are not that of mediocrity
All will have been in vain and ridiculous
But there’s nothing I can do about it

I’d like to show you what you left behind
Imagine yourself next to my brother
While you ask him questions, admired
From his perseverance
And from the goodness of his feelings
Incredulous of his melancholy
Furious because he’s so forgetful of himself
And prodigal of his time

I want our love to tear you apart, without any shield
The power of our love
Tender and miserable
I want you to know
That we won’t forget you
We think about you every day
And there’s nothing we can do about it

Now that you’re not here
it is imperative to live
Gathering your things so they don’t get stepped on
We’ll take care of you
We’ll do our best
I promise you, this time
It will be enough


Misuro il silenzio
delle falene ebbre di luce
Finché il quieto imbrunire
Non spalanchi un nuovo sole
E tacciano le termiti
Esasperate dalla fatica
Di scavare il legno molle

Sono esausta anche io
del tormento folle
Di divenire un legno cavo
Un sarcofago ornato
che inghiotta vite umane
finché gli scoppiano dentro
sature di spazio
le parole e i proprietari
liquidati da una lapide
circoscritti nella storia

Mi suonino dita sapienti
perché sarò una chitarra
di sinusoidi anonime
vibrante di un amore
donato per eccesso
perduto per esalazione
come uno starnuto, o uno sbadiglio

Mi guidino le correnti
perché sarò una barca
su cui peseranno gli uomini
da traghettare alla dimenticanza
Salgano e scendano
portandosi tutto addosso
e ne escano leggeri, sollevati di ogni carico

-è mondandosi nel fango del Gange
che i cadaveri fluttuano
verso il Nirvana
Detersi dall’ego
Finalmente privi di se stessi-

Mi riempiano i loro pianti
e le acque del Lete
poiché sarò un vaso
traboccante di umanità.


I measure the silence
of moths, dizzy with light,
Until the peaceful dusk
may open a new sun wide
And the termites may fall silent
Exasperated by the fatigue
Of scooping the tender wood

I am exhausted, too
of the deranged torment
of becoming a hollow wood
An adorned sarcophagus
that swallows human lives
until they burst inside
saturated with space
-words and their owners
dismissed with a headstone
circumscribed in history

May some skillful fingers play my chords
for I will be a guitar
of anonymous sinusoids,
vibrant with love
that is given by excess
lost by exhalation
like a sneeze, or a yawn

May the streams guide me
for I will be a boat
on which will weigh the men
that are to be hauled to oblivion
May they go on and off
carrying everything on them
may they disembark lightweighted, relieved from any burden

-it is by cleaning themselves in the mud of the Ganges
that corpses float
towards Nirvana
cleansed from their ego
Finally emptied of themselves-

May their tears
and the waters of Lethe fill me
for I will be a vase
overflowing with humanity.