What's New

Emilio Villa

What's new is that one can no longer keep
the eyelids of swept away young men open
with sharpened toothpicks, they're no longer alive:

what's new is the whitish eyes of Milanese
men upon the wires of trolleys, trams and poles;
don't tell me it's sad to go on looking sadly in each other's eyes!

what's new is that between flesh and bone there's something
that turns a girl either hot or cold, who has eyes
like a countryside plowed by war, outside the city walls;

what's new is that few plants continue to grow;
and hands ruined by lesions and soot
light the cast-iron stoves, there is no gas;

is that the universal substance trembles, and our heart
not out of pride, nor power, but it seems good, and a sound
of water ways trembles, water ways and train tracks:

the wind has left furrows of rain and greasy stains
on the plaster of facades fifteen meters wide, and
furrows, that is wrinkles, in the old folks' polished square;

windows are a seed among headlights: and I
sow breath and great goodtime, and you
walk up and down the main streets of town;

and I make ragged comparisons, and you carry
the stingy and melancholy beauty within the red shade
of still being beautiful, a girl like a countryside;

and I know how to give forgotten compliments, and you move on;
and you think that one needs to watch what is needed,
and I think about shivering animals that will once again

piss close to the air like they used to; and you
make me a musical list of clothes to dry
in the generous and hapless air of our camporella.

More by Emilio Villa

1941 Piece

It could be
that on any given
day air would travel
half-heartedly through the air,


maybe, but if Lake Garda fails to recover in time
all the dust eaten by cyclists in meaningless races,
and kilometers that don't count, good for nothing,


maybe, as long as the ozone and the horizontal rain
speak to traffic cops with nickeled stands of poplar
about ideal jubilees, communism fresh as a rose


and then we would feel
as if in our chests mangled by spears,
thoughtful devotions, affections, vanities,
our dioceses were to drown one by one
little by little, and inside the other
ephemeral vase of air, shipwrecked people
were to surface
with a brotherly laugh, but without
the body dense as a body or as any thing


and as long as the dodging capon,
trapped on the edge of the fog or within
autumn's violet stubble, failed to die
heroically wounded by that pocket knife thrown
by chance, stuck in his shins until blood is spilled; or


as long as the train's smell slithers to checkpoints
and realizes in the end that the world's nights
and the lowing from the stalls of Brianza, and the breath


of foreign fodder, and the air filled
with a stew of local beef, and the change
of musical coins across the zinc counter, will touch
the firmament with frosted hands: and then


some agate marbles concealed in the panic snore
of those poplars will serve as lamps or blinds


and it's not like the heavens
are a sound, bottomless investment, or a mine
devoid of fatherland and feeling


therefore, let the troops hurry like shades with coats
on the borders rubbing mile after mile,
year after year; and more so the hidden anguish of breaths
grows here in the fatherland and furthermore freezes
in this chaos, and here the fish seeps out,
like mandatory nostalgia for the northern star, and
the train's snake-like turns, stops, the long
detours through the countryside, through the nocturnal
paint of drizzling rain and murk


thus, drunk with weakness facing the earthly dream
where the stones of Europe mature, where stately
gardens float in the naviglio of peace,
nations devised in the dreams of strange
prime ministers with rocks in their heads


drunk with emotion the last seafarer or engineer
or fresh water sailor, or athlete at the track,
forgotten the silvery shimmer of canals and verdure,
the murmur of pewter silverware washed
in doorways opening onto towpaths
in that slow after-supper idleness, let him go
beyond the soul


and then again, beyond the soul everything is a mirror
of celestial Catholic confusion, nor do we want to
believe in our bodies too much, this mirror, enough,
for the time being, with this annoying light


yet meanwhile the rest of us exist, both one and the other,
fearfully, reverentially, and then,
rising from the busy welfare rolls
we pass, like sickly clouds, toward the fine liquor
of the Atlantic, at the county's end,
without the noise of borders or hallways: that's where


everything will be vague and flawless, everything
in common; there, not a single strip of twilight
ever appears stronger than the night


electric, fish-like.

Poetry is

poetry is evanescence
 

poetry is life sentence, release
on words, liberté sur parole
 

poetry is a blind guide to an ancient
enigma, to an inaccessible
secret
 

poetry is an argument
dynamic and jarring
 

poetry is a rag tag cos-
mology we can
raise and wave,
it's a small (abregée) cos-
mogony: unaware,
seamless, unstitched,
breathless, in tatters
 

poetry is to forget
forgetfulness
 

poetry is to separate self from
self
 

poetry is what's completely
left out
 

poetry is emptying without
exhausting
 

poetry is constraint to the remote,
to the not yet, the not
now, the not here,
the not there, the
not before, neither not after,
nor not now
 

poetry is breeching
 

poetry is to burn and give birth
in the same vocal gesture
 

poetry is being-there multiplied
by not being-there, remembering
to trans-be-there traversely
like a watershed
 

poetry is a misunderstanding about
what I don't know exactly,
but a misunderstanding
 

poetry is infinite impotence,
limpid, lucid, hallucinated
 

poetry is intersection
interjection
intersession
interruption
 

poetry is a low blow
 

poetry is transit and exit
 

poetry is infusion and trans-fusion
 

poetry is memory of what is not
and what must not be; that is
the culminating, liminal Self
the Self as an incomplete cosmos
never to be completed
 

poetry is tying—untying
 

poetry is the ritual scene of
infinite uncertainty, of the
inaccessible Infermity
(Infirmitas)
 

poetry is a streak
a swerve
a splay
a spade
 

poetry is crib—cradle
it's nook—needlei
of the Trans-Organ
of the trans-organic
of the Indistinct
of the In(de)terminable
 

poetry is ash
 

poetry is diagonal
it's ramble
inside the manifest body
of Universal Inexistence
of Global Entropy
 

poetry is stiffened laziness
an arm hanging from the
branch of the Tree of the Knowledge
of Good and Evil; that is
a Monkey in Brazil
always hanging by an arm
from the branch of a tree (it's the Preguiçaii )
 

poetry is terrorism in the domain of speech,
a bang in the cloister of language
 

it's terror in the depths of rhetoric
 

poetry is liberation from knowing
escape from the known
a release from mechanics
 

and at the same time it's falling, sinking
into repetitive, obsessive, iterative
mechanics, which are also the
mechanics of hinting, of the
norm, of ritual (of strict
obligation, of rhyme, of number,
of essence)
 

poetry is the implosion of zero time
and in(de)finite degree
 

poetry is unleashing, un-phrasingiii, a potential
threat, breaking, robbing,
destruction
 

poetry is smashing, shattering, shaking
 

 

it's a clash between
strength and restraint
that tends to erase.
We are truly
infinitely mad

 

poetry is almost everything: that is everything, less
what it really is
 

poetry is impermanence crossed with
trans-manence
 

it's impertinence
 

poetry is counter and encounter (spontaneous
and predestined) between neurosis and unconscious,
between archetype and Self
 

a monotonous and perpetuated ring between
impulse and obsession
 

poetry is aggression
 

to write poetry is to cut slits, produce cracks,
point out filaments in the
curtain, in the Barred
Wall
 

poetry is a fight against the night
 

poetry is night against the night
 

poetry is a rub against the voice
 

poetry is friction against the Dragon's skin
 

poetry is this
it's this and that
and so be it
 


iIn the original Italian, this verse literally reads: it's cell—eye of the needle. Villa may have been thinking about the passage from the New Testament "It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19: 23-24)
iiPerguiça literally means "sloth" in Portuguese. Here Villa uses it in reference to the mammal that dwells in the trees of South America, specifically those of Brazil, where he lived for three years.
iiiSfraso might derive from the verb "sfrasare," meaning to disrupt the phrase. It is, however, one of Villa's many neologisms and the interpretation offered here (un-phrasing) is merely hypothetical.