Pier Paolo Pasolini “Bunch of Grapes” (poem)

Photo via Pasolini.net.

I haven’t had time to perfect my translation but here’s an initial draft of the poem that I will be reciting tonight at the COF2012 press dinner. It’s one of Pasolini’s “forgotten” Friulian (language) poems (published posthumously in 1976) that didn’t make it into his songbook La meglio gioventù.

Bunch of Grapes

I dreamed that I was eating grapes
one berry at a time
from a plump green bunch,
a man’s entire destiny
his misfortunes
in those freshly picked grapes
as old as the world

in the dream, I’m the one eating
the grapes with a mouth
that laughs in despair, a pitiful sight,
because it’s been tricked
by the dark dream
and it must laugh as it chews
the infected berry

I crunch it between my teeth reluctantly
because when one dies, or eats,
shame will follow
as if I had scabies, I gobble down
its immobile grains
stuck in the glimmer
that descends on the dead

in the white, dry, limestone
glimmer that never dies,
I see Casarsa before me
and I am a child
in stockings and sweater that cover
my trembling flesh

the poor little, big house
with flies on its greased table
empty and tired,
its courtyard well
walkways and fields
are burning
in the blaze of the sun

wrought-iron beds in its rooms
white bedcovers that smell
of old fleas that died
in the time of my aunts and uncles
when poverty gnawed
even the branches of the fig-tree
in the sun-burnt garden

there, in the middle of it all, I,
a forgotten little featherless swallow,
felt the sin like the heat
and kept it under my scorching skin
as great as the world
that burned
in Casarsa

The Tagliamento, with its
asphalt road and green pastures
like the dried forests
and the yellow fields
of corn between the sea and the mountains:
everything burned in my childhood flesh,
an aching flame

3 Responses to Pier Paolo Pasolini “Bunch of Grapes” (poem)

  1. Thank you for this. I have never seen this poem, and it is achingly beautiful. You are a truly talented translator. Bravo!

  2. Hamzanama says:

    The man was a genius, simple genius!

  3. Eugene Costa says:

    “Cluster of grapes”–no? First class despite a few rough spots you surely are still working on.

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