Lo svagato

Luciano Erba

Ma quando arrivano? e come?
e chi li manda tra noi?
un giorno li trovi vicini
con un berretto a visiera
la sciarpa rossa, le mani
nelle tasche davanti dei calzoni
nuovi compagni dei nostri giochi
silenziosi, sorridenti compagni
più piccoli di noi, più pallidi
stanchi a una breve corsa, maldestri
a lottare, a saltare, e senza peso.
Ricordo uno che un mattino d’ottobre
salì con noi fino al monte Cavallo
aveva le guance rosse di mal di cuore
sorrideva correndo per restarci vicino.
E un altro, né escludo che fosse lo stesso
per quel loro modo di camminare e il maglione turchino,
che per vigneti mi seguì al fondovalle
a pesca di trote dove il fiume
si dirama in chiari canali.
Si restò fino a sera dentro l’acqua
senza che mi chiedesse una volta
di provare a pescare: poi scomparve
per un sentiero che non saprei più trovare.
E un terzo, o ancora lo stesso,
per quel loro grande nodo alla sciarpa di lana,
e per il suo starmi in silenzio vicino
nei prati gialli fuori città
in un’Africa immaginata
per un’immobile, lunga giornata. E un quarto…

Scomparsi. Distrutti da febbri spietate,
consunti da un male ignoto, lontani, non so.
Né so se torneranno, né quando, né come
gli amici, i giorni, la più chiara stagione,
se tornerà la vita
perduta per disattenzione.


Luciano Erba

But when are they coming? and how?
and who sends them to us?
one day you find them near
wearing a cap with a visor
a red scarf, their hands
in the front pockets of their slacks
new companions of our pastimes
silent, smiling companions
smaller than we are, sallower
tired after a short race, terrible
at wrestling, at jumping, and weightless.
I remember one who one morning in October
climbed with us to the top of Monte Cavallo
his cheeks were red from the heartache
smiling he ran to keep up with us.
And another, I can’t say if it was the same one
with that way they had of walking and the turquoise sweater,
who followed me through the vineyard to the valley
to fish for trout where the river
branches out into clear channels.
We stayed until nightfall in the water
without him asking me even once
to try to fish: then he disappeared
along a path I would no longer be able to find.
And a third, or maybe the same one,
with that way they knotted their heavy wool scarf,
and of staying silently close to me
in the yellow fields outside the city
in an imaginary Africa
for a long, motionless day. And a fourth…

Gone. Wiped out by ruthless fevers,
consumed by a nameless malady, distant, I don’t know.
Nor do I know if they will return, when, or how
the companions, the days, the most limpid season,
if it will return, that life
lost for lack of attention.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi

Luciano Erba was a poet, literary critic, translator and university professor. He was a member of the so-called “Linea Lombarda” movement, he debuted as a poet in 1951 with the collection Linea K.

During his career Erba was the recipient of numerous award, including the Viareggio Prize for Poetry in 1980 for Il prato piu verde and Il nastro di Moebius, the Bagutta Prize in 1988 for II tranviere metafisico, the PEN Award in 1995 for L’ipotesi circense.

He collaborated with various publications, including Itinerari, La Fiera Letteraria,Il Verri and The Western Review, and was active as a translator from French and English languages.

Among his works we find: Linea K, 1951, (the letter K is missing in the Italian alphabet, and this takes us to his idea of a marginal reality, not evident and yet necessary); Il bel paese, 1955, which alludes, ironically to a lost Lombardy; Il prete di Ratanà, 1959, a character that would become emblematic; and Il male minore, which, in 1969, summarises the first phase of his poetic production.

In the preface of his collection Il male minore, Milan, 1955, Alfonos Gatto wrote: “If we were to speak of the result of this poetry, so original in its “luxury of the unusual”, we would speak not so much of the author’s undeniable talent, but of the intimate, surprising memory he has of his lack of memory.”

In the picture, the words by Luciano Erba state: “Translated poetry always has a new life.”

Lo svagato is from the collection Il male minore, Milan, Mondadori.
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