Who Do You Think You Are


Who do you think you are

Who do you think you are
Bringing rain when I want sun,
Drowning me in your tide
Telling me – have fun.

Who do you think you are
Treading on my heart with dirty shoes,
Expecting me to scrub off
Your traces of mud.

Who do you think you are
Walking in and out of my life
To stab my heart with your knife.

Stealing the poetry of snow
To dress your lies of romance,
Forgetting the snow would melt
To reveal the emptiness of your heart.

Hidden Giants


As I flew to Madrid for a short holiday, I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the stunning views outside the airplane. The clouds were beautifully shaped, creating the most interesting shadows over the earth’s surface…just as described in my poem ‘Clouds’.

The fields in Spain created such strange patterns and combination of colours that some of them appeared to me like strange creatures, like hidden giants only visible from the skies.

More posts to come about Madrid…stay tuned!!!

Arbeit Macht (Nicht) Frei


As you all know, today – the 27th January – is the Holocaust Memorial Day.


“Countless men, women and children suffered the horrors of the ghettos and Nazi death camps, yet somehow survived. All of them carry a crucial message for all of us.  A message about the triumph of the human spirit.  A living testament that tyranny, though it may rise, will surely not prevail”. (UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 27 January 2010)

The 27th January – the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp – was designated  in the “Holocaust Remembrance” United Nations Resolution 60/7 – as an annual International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust. This occasion is observed with ceremonies and activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and at UN offices around the world. Every country around the world holds specific events dedicated to this occasion.

I don’t actually like using the term ‘Holocaust‘, in fact a lot of controversy has been raised regarding the use of a term meaning “sacrifice” as if the killing of millions of people had a ‘higher’ purpose or justification. This is why the preferred term is the Hebrew one ‘Shoah’ meaning catastrophe, disaster and destruction.

I would like to remember this day, by posting the famous poem ‘If this is a man’ (Se questo è un uomo) by Primo Levi, which was written by the well-known survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp to convey the feeling of degradation and inhumanisation experienced by the people kept in the Nazi extermination camps.

Voi che vivete sicuri / You who live safe
Nelle vostre tiepide case / In your warm houses,
voi che trovate tornando a sera / You who find warm food
Il cibo caldo e visi amici / And friendly faces when you return home.

Considerate se questo è un uomo / Consider if this is a man
Che lavora nel fango / Who works in mud,
Che non conosce pace / Who knows no peace,
Che lotta per mezzo pane / Who fights for a crust of bread,
Che muore per un sì o per un no. / Who dies by a yes or a no.

Considerate se questa è una donna / Consider if this is a woman
Senza capelli e senza nome / Without hair, without name,
Senza più forza di ricordare / Without the strength to remember,
Vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo / Vacant eyes, cold womb,
Come una rana d’inverno. / Like a frog in winter.

Meditate che questo è stato / Realise that this has happened.

Vi comando queste parole. / Remember these words.

Scolpitele nel vostro cuore / Engrave them in your hearts,
Stando in casa andando per via / When at home or in the street,
Coricandovi alzandovi / When lying down, when getting up.

Ripetetele ai vostri figli./ Repeat them to your children.

O vi si sfaccia la casa / Or may your houses be destroyed,
La malattia vi impedisca / Illness bar your way,
I vostri nati torcano il viso da voi / Your offspring turn away from you.

This poem, which is of extraordinary strength, focussed on the humiliation of the camps that sought not only to destroy people physically, but also – and especially – emotionally. People there were not to be people anymore. The key aim of the Nazis was to make these prisoners forget they were humans too, and, as such, had natural rights.

I wrote about this poem once before in my blog, when I was talking about racism against immigrants. You can read about that topic, here: This is Not a Man.

A year ago, I wrote a few lines about the 27th January, The Meaning of Life.

Today, people have lived like usual and people have been at work.

Yet, today, we need to stop and think…we need to remember what has been and why.
This has been and it could be again.

Please take a few minutes today to think, remember and understand that what happened can happen again. We are never to consider ourselves safe enough from humans’ folly.

Winter Poem


A crunchy iced crust

shining in the sun

hiding the soft slushy snow

hands are frozen tingling icicles

breathing clouds of steam in the sun

little footprints in the frost

while even the strongest trees

bend over, under the weight

of their heavy blankets

(27 December 2010)

The pictures included in this post were all taken by myself on 26 December 2010 in Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier (France).

Shelter / Rifugio


Shelter


One immediate thought
is brought up by the memory of you

the sun of your smile

the light of your blue eyes.

You ride your bicycle
You taste the joy
of the wind in your face

You laugh without worries
contemplating the noise of the market

I know where you are now,
inside your shelter
of old and new pages.

Pages of unknown books,
but appreciated by you.

Continue, please,
do not interrupt your
reading for me.

I leave you in silence,
knowing that silence it is not

filled by sounds of words
and by the uproar of your thoughts.

—————-

Il rifugio

Un primo pensiero la tua memoria richiama

il sole del tuo sorriso

la luce dei tuoi occhi celesti.

Corri sulla tua bicicletta
assapora la gioia
del vento sul viso

Ridi spensierata
osservando il brusio del mercato

So dove sei ora,
nel tuo rifugio
delle pagine antiche e nuove.

Pagine di libri sconosciuti,
ma da te apprezzati.

Continua, ti prego,
non interrompere la lettura per me.

Ti lascio in silenzio
sapendo che silenzio
non è

riempito di suoni di parole e del frastuono dei tuoi pensieri.

Clouds / Nuvole


Clouds

Soft buds
of cotton wool

Laid down towards the infinite
in white mounts
of froth

They move apart
and they get close again

Light and shadow games
they appear like hills
the traces left by the skies

Cross over
softly
quietly

And airplanes escape
on the horizon.

———————

Le nuvole

Soffici batuffoli
di cotoneDistesi all’infinito
in bianchi cumuli
di schiumaSi dividono
e si riavvicinano

Giochi di luci e ombre
appaiono come colline
i solchi scavati dagli sci

Si incrociano
morbidamente
silenziosamente

E aerei fuggono
all’orizzonte.

This is not a man


Questo non è un uomo

I have decided today to post the poem by Adriano Sofri, a prominent and controversial Italian political activist and critic, because of its depth and value. My English translation is posted just below the Italian original poem.

This poem is inspired by the famous poem ‘If this is a man’ (Se questo è un uomo) by Primo Levi, which was written by the well-known survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp to convey the feeling of degradation and inhumanisation experienced by the people kept in the Nazi extermination camps.

Voi che vivete sicuri / You who live safely
Nelle vostre tiepide case / In your warm houses,
voi che trovate tornando a sera / You who find warm food
Il cibo caldo e visi amici / And friendly faces when you return home.

Considerate se questo è un uomo / Consider if this is a man
Che lavora nel fango / Who works in mud,
Che non conosce pace / Who knows no peace,
Che lotta per mezzo pane / Who fights for a crust of bread,
Che muore per un sì o per un no. / Who dies by a yes or a no.
 
Considerate se questa è una donna / Consider if this is a woman
Senza capelli e senza nome / Without hair, without a name,
Senza più forza di ricordare / With no longer the strength to remember,
Vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo / Vacant eyes, cold womb,
Come una rana d’inverno. / Like a frog in winter.

Meditate che questo è stato / Realise that this has happened.

Vi comando queste parole. / Remember these words.

Scolpitele nel vostro cuore / Engrave them in your hearts,
Stando in casa andando per via / When at home or in the street,
Coricandovi alzandovi / When going to bed, when getting up.
Ripetetele ai vostri figli./ Repeat them to your children.
O vi si sfaccia la casa / Or may your house be destroyed,
La malattia vi impedisca / Illness bar your way,
I vostri nati torcano il viso da voi / Your offspring turn away from you.

This poem, which is of extraordinary strength, focussed on the humiliation of the camps that sought not only to destroy people physically, but also – and especially – emotionally. People there were not to be people anymore. The key aim of the Nazis was to make these prisoners forget they were humans too, and, as such, had natural rights.

Sofri’s poem posted above is a serious cry for help – help for those black people in Southern Italy (Rosarno – in Calabria, region just North-East of Sicily) who this week (January 2010) have rebelled to the constant racism that reigns over their difficult and sad lives  They rebelled against the racism of the locals (e.g. spitting at them in streets, shouting insults at them) and against the slavery-like treatment reserved to them for years in the fields where oranges and other typical southern-Italian products are grown and collected. This market is under the control of the Mafia from many years and the immigrants, whether they are legal or not, are taken under what is real modern slavery. They earn 1 euro per hour or less, they live under what can hardly be called rooves, and they wash in the streets. These black men and women have been humiliated in the streets, attacked, hit and killed because they ‘disturb’ the town.

This has caused a very big debate amongst Italian politicians as to whether the local inhabitants are ‘racists’. Some politicians seem to think the key problem in this case is that there are far too many immigrants. The problem of uncontrolled immigrants is real and under everybody’s eyes. However, few people (and politicians) seem to have the courage to denounce what is the real problem: the Mafia, which encourages people from abroad, who live in appalling conditions and thus have nothing to lose, to migrate to Italy with the promise of a safe and honest job to help their families. These people abandon their families to go to the ‘promised land’ only to find themselves trapped in a condition of slavery and illegality, without the protection of law, since for the State they are ‘non-existant’ individuals hidden by the Mafia. Once their job is no more required, they are abandoned in their situation of desperately poor immigrants (60% of the immigrants involved in the situation in Rosarno were legal immigrants) and they are not accepted by the population that attributes their condition to their own lack of attempt to be follow the ‘welcoming country’s laws’.

The poem by Sofri wants to remind us all that no matter whether legal or illegal, an immigrant is a human being like any one else: someone who has a right to a dignified life and a right to be treated as equal to any other man or woman. Let us stop manipulating a reality which we, Italians, have greatly contributed to create and let us stop closing our eyes in front of the atrocities which are being committed against these poor people.

The Poem
…………………………………………………

In the Ghettos of Italy
This is not a Man

by Adriano Sofri

Once again, again consider
if this is a man,
like a toad in January,
who is on his way when it is dark and foggy
and returns when it is foggy and dark,
who collapses on the side of the road,
who
at Christmas smells of kiwi and oranges,
who knows three languages yet can speak none,
who fights his meals with mice,
who has two spare slippers,
an asilum request,
an engineering degree, one photograph,
and he hides them under cardboards,
and sleeps on the Rognetta cardboards,
under an asbestos roof,
or without a roof,
who lights a fire from the rubbish,
who stays in his own place,
in no place,
and comes out, after shooting,
“He got it wrong!”,
of course he got it wrong,
the Black Man
from the black misery,
of the black market, and from Milan,
after begging for attenuating circumstances
they write in big letters: BLACK,
discarded by a corporal,
spat in the eye by a miserable local man,
hit by his owners

chased after by their dogs,
what an envy for your dogs,
what an envy the jail
(a good place to hang oneself)
Who urinates with dogs,
who bites the dogs without owners,
who lives between one No and another No,
between a Police office for mafia
and a last welcome Immigrants Centre
and when he dies, an offer
of his brothers paid one euro per hour
sends him overseas, over the desert
to his land – “To whatever land!”
Meditate that this has been,
that this is now,
what a State this is,
Reread your essays on the Problem
you who adopt from a safety distance
in Congo, in Guatemala,
and you write in your warm homes,
neither here nor there,
neither goodness, something left to charity,
nor brutality, something left to internal affairs,
tepid, like a gun in the night,

and you move your eyes away from her

who is not a woman
from him, who is not a man
who has not got a woman
and his sons, if he has sons, are far
and prey again that your newborns
will not turn  their faces away from yours
in disgust.