Quarderno del nulla

 

Dina Ferri

 

Siena, 24 luglio 1929.

 

Erano due ragazzi. Forse fratello e sorella; forse s’erano incontrati un giorno sulla strada come due pellegrini. Ora, due pellegrini hanno comune almeno un ricordo e un desiderio; perciò sono amici nel paese sconosciuto. Così poteva essere dei due ragazzi.

Li vidi un giorno sulle scale di San Domenico. Parevano stanchi, avevano l’aria triste. Il ragazzo era più grandicello, bruno, con gli occhi pensosi. La bimba era più piccola, più gracile. Aveva i capelli biondicci, raccolti in una piccola treccia serrata; sofferente, pareva, come il volto magro, giallognolo, di donna adulta. Solo gli occhi grandi e tristi erano di bimba; di bimba che ha sofferto e soffre sempre, ma non piange più, ormai vinta e piegata come un giunco ingiallito sotto l’acqua.

Il ragazzo aveva un organetto, ma non suonava per chiedere ai passanti un soldo o almeno uno sguardo di pietà. Quei ragazzi avevano fame e non possedevano nulla. Si leggeva nei loro volti. Tremavano, erano sfiduciati. La bimba aveva reclinato la testa; forse sognava la madre che non vide o che perdé. Il ragazzo la guardava, pareva capirla. Poi il ragazzo si alzò, prese per mano la piccina, si allontanò, scomparve tra la folla.

Un’altra volta li vidi al crocicchio di una via. Allora il ragazzo suonava l’organetto e la bimba tendeva ai passanti la mano piccola, scarna, come il volto deformato dalla sofferenza. Alcuno li guardava con indifferenza, altri con pietà; altri infine lasciava cadere una piccola moneta nella mano tesa.

Per molto tempo li rividi al crocicchio della via. Dall’organetto uscivano sempre le stesse note; voci tristi, voci di pianto. Sempre la bimba tendeva ai passanti la mano scarna. Gli occhi del ragazzo erano sempre pensosi, quelli della bimba sempre tristi. Non sorridevano mai, non piangevano mai, non si parlavano mai. Solo ogni tanto il ragazzo guardava la bimba. Allora il volto restava immutato, ma lo sguardo diveniva più triste.

Così i giorni passavano ed essi non parevano avvedersene. Non dicevano nulla, non chiedevano nulla. Erano soli, tra la folla che li spingeva, li scostava inconsapevole. E nel silenzio si accostavano, l’uno a l’altra, non per riscaldarsi le membra intirizzite, ma per risollevare l’anima stanca e avvilita.

Io pensavo ai piccoli mendicanti. Che avevano quei ragazzi? Non so, volevo avvicinarli, dir loro una parola, udire il suono della loro voce. E un giorno infatti mi avvicinai. Dissi qualche parola, non so che cosa, non ricordo più. So che allora udii la voce del ragazzo. Era una voce triste; pareva venire di lontano, di molto lontano, ed era scossa da un tremito di pianto come le note dell’organetto. Mi disse una storia; una storia lunga, una storia triste. Non so se quella fosse la verità, ma che importa? Se non era quella, era uguale a quella. E poi io avevo capito due cose tristi: che la loro via era lunga, senza ritorno, e che essi avevano il desiderio di una carezza. Io mi vergognai di aver fatto ricordare ai ragazzi la loro sorte, e mi allontanai senza gettar nulla alla bimba, che non tese la mano scarna. Mi pareva che un soldo li avrebbe avviliti di più, e che essi mi avrebbero disprezzato. Mi allontanai, ma fatti pochi passi, mi volsi indietro. Essi mi guardavano ancora. Il volto del ragazzo era immutato, ma lo sguardo era cambiato, come quando si volgeva verso la bimba.

A notebook of nothings

 

Dina Ferri

 

Siena, July 24, 1929

 

They were two children. Maybe brother and sister; maybe they had met one day on the streets, like two pilgrims. Now, two pilgrims share a memory at least, a hope; and they are friends in an unknown land. And maybe that was the case with those two children.

I saw them one day on the steps of San Domenico. They looked tired, and sorrow-ridden. The boy was slightly older, dark, with pensive eyes. The girl was younger, more delicate. Her hair was blondish, tied in a tight braid; she had a pained expression, like the emaciated, wan features of a woman. Her eyes alone, big and sad, were the eyes of a child, a child that had always suffered, but no longer cries, won and bent like a tender branch in the rain.

The boy had an accordion but wasn’t playing it so the passersby would give him money, or piteous glances. Those children were hungry and penniless. You could read it in their eyes. They shivered, were downhearted. The little girl’s head was bent to one side: maybe she was daydreaming about the mother she hadn’t seen for a time, or had lost. The boy looked at her, and seemed to understand. Then the boy got up, took the little girl by the hand, and they moved away, through the crowd.

I saw them once again at an intersection. The boy was playing the accordion, and the girl was with him, tiny hand outstretched, skeletal, like her face, which was twisted in pain. Some looked at them with indifference, others with pity; others still dropped a coin into her small, outstretched hand.

I saw them often at that intersection. Always the same notes flowed out of that accordion: sounds of sadness, sounds of grief. It was always the little girl who stretched out her skeletal hand. The boy’s eyes were always pensive, and the girl’s always sad. They never smiled, never cried, never spoke. Just, every once in a while, the boy glanced at the little girl. His features remained unchanged, but his eyes became darker.

So the days passed, and they didn’t seem to notice. They said nothing, asked for nothing. They were alone, in the crowd, which pushed and shoved them from all sides, moving them, unwittingly. And in the silence, they moved nearer to each other, not to keep their frozen limbs warm, but to lift their tired and weary souls.

I thought about those two beggars. What had happened to those children? I didn’t know, but I wanted to approach them, to say something to them, to listen to the sound of their voices. And one day, in fact, I did approach them. I said something, I can’t remember what. But I know that I heard the boy’s voice then. It was a sad voice; it seemed to be coming from far away, very far away, and it shook, rippled with tears, like the notes from the accordion. He told me a tale, a long tale, a sad tale. I don’t know if it was the truth, but what was the difference? If that wasn’t their tale, it was very similar to it. And, in the end, I had learned two very sad things: that the road they were on was a very long one with no return; and that they yearned for a caress. I was sorry I had made them remember their plight, and left them without giving the little girl, who had not extended her skeletal hand, anything. I thought a coin might sadden them even more, and that they would despise me for it. I moved away, but a few steps later, I looked back. They were still looking at me. The boy’s features were unchanged, but his eyes were different, like when he looked at the little girl.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi

Other works by Dina Ferri:

https://paralleltexts.wordpress.com/tag/dina-ferri/

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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