Chidago Canyon Petroglyph, Detail




E dunque il tono colloquiale
prepara una versificazione lenta,
da indagine, da anamnesi, da autopsia.
Non dice cose cosmiche, eteree,
nel dormiveglia, nell’ipnosi,
ma cose quotidiane,  solide
come la dichiarazione delle tasse.

Per coloro che amano la routine,
la banalità svogliata detta
per non offendere un collega,
Il muso duro contro il muro dei volti,
la mattina alla metropolitana,
le amate scartoffie che ti conferiscono un’identità,
ti disegnano un ruolo, ti donano una maschera di
suprema neutralità da impiegato statale.
Per coloro per cui la macchinetta del caffè
è un totem sacro, ecco per tutti costoro
questi versi sono scritti.
Attenti, ricordate:
la miriade di facce sconvolte
la mattina sul bus
sono la Storia.  


translated by Massimo Fantuzzi


And therefore, the colloquial tone
makes for a slow versification –
investigative, anamnestic, autopsic.
Semiconscious, hypnotized,
it won’t speak of cosmic, unearthly things
but rock-solid, everyday things
like tax returns.

For those who love routine,
the listless dullness spoken
so as not to offend a colleague,
chin up against the wall of faces,
in the morning, on the subway,
beloved paperwork that confers you an identity,
designates you a role, provides you with the mask
of supreme neutrality: civil servant.
For those who see the coffee maker
as a sacred totem, there, for all of these,
these verses were written.
Beware, and remember:
the countless distraught faces
on the early bus
make History.

Ettore Fobo


Review by Jared Pearce

It’s difficult not to love a poem that reminds us so clearly and urgently why poetry exists at all.


Review by Dave Mehler

This poem is singing my song. dreary people living lives of desperation as Eliot would say from teaspoon to teaspoon, or as David Foster Wallace catalogues in The Pale King where people are literally working for the IRS and dealing in tax returns but somehow through the tedium find transcendence—they lean in to the tedium and crash through to the other side—go through the wall of the material and land on the other side—one character is talking to another and begins to levitate for example—he must hold himself down onto the bar stool or he would float away. Whether we like it or not, it is the mundane lives who are making history—perhaps the more dramatic things have more visible impact but I don’t think are any more meaningful or important as the small unseen and unremarked small lives—it’s all adding up to something. So I totally agree with Fobo here. He lost me on a colloquial tone being slower—maybe it’s getting after that unremarked unseen aspect of the small and little things and people having a big effect cumulatively. In my opinion this is a theological question—which I don’t think Fobo is subscribing to—I think it’s through God’s eyes that we most matter and effect history in small ways. I’d love to know what he thinks though. What exactly inspired him and what he’s pointing to, from a materialistic godless point of view? How do we matter or mean anything apart from that transcendence? And upper story and vantage? He refuses to speak of cosmic unearthly things either because they don’t exist or he’s too humble and unpretentious to speak to what he doesn’t know??? I love this poem. It makes me think and like I say, it’s singing my song. I’ve tipped something like 50,000 loads of trash over 15 years. Run that many circles around a dump and loaded in a tunnel with a foot and half of stinky water in it. If that isn’t as terrible as poring over tax returns for a mathlete I don’t know what is.



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