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Contemporary Italian American Writing

Elisa Biagini: E.R. Poems

Colorado blue | Eyes full of wind |
Opening a mine | Chocolate storm
| Asbury park | Holland Tunnel

Elisa BiaginiElisa Biagini was born in Florence, Italy in 1970. She has taught Italian in the US at Rutgers University (where she earned her Ph.D.), Gettysburg College, Barnard College-Columbia University, and in Italy at Pepperdine University and New York University. Her poetry, in both Italian and English, has appeared in various Italian and American journals, such as Poesia, Linea d'ombra, Versodove, Atelier, Rattapallax, Lungfull, Women's Studies and others. She has published three books of poetry,the most recent a bilingual edition, Corpo-Cleaning the house (2003), and her work has also appeared in various anthologies such as VI Quaderno di poesia italiana (1998) and L'opera comune(1999). She has also translated widely from English much contemporary American poetry. In 2001 she edited and translated an edition of Alicia Ostriker's poetry and prose, Milk, and in 2002 Sharon Olds's Satana dice. Biagini's latest collection of poetry, L'ospite, is forthcoming with Einaudi later this year. She is the translator for Gerry LaFemina, prize winner of the Bordighera Prize, 2003, for his book: THE PARAKEETS OF BROOKLYN.

Colorado blue

1.
Blue cadet coats swarming into
the razor blades

of the church spires, eyes matching
shoes, shining,

no echoes in the pillows of
these mountains.

2.
Following paths through
the red hair rocks, my

kidney stones, your hands
shaking, out of place

like that blue bird
with no camouflage.

3.
Not in the rain
forest, walking at dawn, blue

peacock nails matching my T-shirt, my
breath, but here

no place to hide from you, a
prairie dog.

4.
"Blue roof = happines" I
said as a reflex, like

maple syrup = sex, but
not in your mouth, not in

this car, snow-
like.

5.
To resist our amnesia I dip
my hand in blue and date

it, close to the exit:
is the right one and the color left

moves, river in the canyon
of two fingers.

6.
A scenography of blue walls and
long wooden planks, to
host lungs hungry for milk
and raw meat, porches for

limbs stretched to get
what I thought was
inevitable
but now

I know is not:
the business of breathing is
hard work.

Eyes full of wind

we follow the film up to the pipes,
the water -tanks:
standing between the bridges
is like looking at my own spine,
through the porthole of a silver shield,
pebbles not to lose my way home.

The nerves unfold in concrete,
in asphalt,
and the key doesn't turn;
we are surrounded
by trapped water and meters.
At night the wind blew acid
cracking shoes and hair

but now the whale is dead, the tower doesn't breath,
just scales of glass and a screw.

Looking for angles (and I don't use a filter
as you do, the double lens),
factories are bodies beyond iron hills;

and I am that building,
the belly-white tank in the sun,
and these are my veins
greenhouses for trucks,
my spotted skin, my chapped lips.

I stumble over tires, and cans, and ropes
as a skein of hairs, my debris

rising my bleeding finger for the camera:
it's oil,
it's maple syrup, for my gears.

Opening a mine

(Colorado, april 1998)
--for the raspberry man.

Let the dynamite sweat, risk
the blast, take the cage

down , and don't count
every floor as if checking

your bank account or
the weather : mercury drives people crazy,

it sits quiet in your fingertips. Just wet
your clothes and take your candle,

I know, it will eat up your oxygen
but it's the only way to see

down there. I won't highgrade* your
secrets , like gold in my hair

and don't write your initials on the pie:
it's too dark to recognize your bread

anyway, so you have to trust me,
not waiting to hear my munching.

And, when the light will wash out and our
eyes will glue for a second,

before the deaf darkness again,
in that silence

of pistons, don't
flash your brass tag.

I know you are in the hole:
I am there too.

* (the miners used to "take" extra gold hiding it on their bodies
or, better, in their greasy hair)

Chocolate storm 9.27.98 (for the cow-man)


Maybe
too much
sugar,
     grape-
seeds flowering,
dark blood
flowing,
     so
that we try words like new
tights -- the kind you
stretch before, never
the exact size-, we talk
about opening doors and
going through this time,
not just
smelling.

Is it the
extra air
between us that

makes words
slow, the weight
of miles or
years, of stones
in my pockets?


We slip and
slip

and
keep jumping
into this
empty pool.

Asbury park

again,
     it is the
water that melts
us,
     -filters and
shields-
again,
pancake-flatness.

It's not a
matter of time to
get the right angle,

this
is just going
round,
the pizza shape
of our bond,

that light left on
in an empty building

our handwriting
we can't read.

Holland Tunnel (11.7.98)

It's true,

we are 2
neurons, heading
east, not
touching
      otherwise just
ashes left, the
smell of burnt
rubber.

On a guilt trip
in this car, we
keep the heat on, with
food I don't even
like,
      swallowing
smiles like flies.

You tell me
jokes, proud as
of relative's
pictures,

we hold the
breath hoping
the air will
change:

I know the
exit to this tunnel
is under
water.

Copyright © by Elisa Biagini. All rights reserved.

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