“Farfalle libere” [Butterflies freed] is more than a poem: it is a tribute to women. Written in 1993, Alda Merini takes on one of societies worst crimes, the violence against women. ln Italy 24,7% of women have suffered physical or sexual abuse by men who are not their partners, 13,2% from strangers; and 13% from people they know. (ISTAT)


Alda Merini

O donne povere e sole,
violentate da chi
non vi conosce.
Donne che avete mani
esultanti segreti
d’amore tenete conto
che la vostra voracità
naturale non
sarà mai saziata.
Mangerete polvere,
cercherete d’impazzire
e non ci riuscirete,
avrete sempre il filo
della ragione che vi
taglierà in due.
Ma da queste profonde
ferite usciranno
farfalle libere.

Alda Merini

Oh women poor and alone,
raped by those who
don’t know you.
Women with your hands
on infancy,
exultant secrets
of love keep in mind
that your natural
voracity will
never be sated.
You will eat dust,
you will try to go mad
and you won’t succeed,
you will always have the thread
of reason which will
cut you in two.
But from these deep
wounds will come.
butterflies freed.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2021  

One of the most difficult parts of this translation is found in Alda Merini’s last line: farfalle libere. This literally means freed/released/liberated butterflies; but I couldn’t imagine these words, in this order, as the title of a tribute to women. And Farfalle libere is Italian is definitely a tribute. I opted for butterflies freed, for that is, I believe, what all women are when they are strong enough to leave their wounds and hurt behind.

 For more works by Alda Merini:


Painting: Poppies and butterflies, Vincent Van Gogh

Violence against women in Italy: https://www.istat.it/it/violenza-sulle-donne/il-fenomeno/violenza-dentro-e-fuori-la-famiglia/numero-delle-vittime-e-forme-di-violenza

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

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