Pietro Federico

Translated from Italian by John Poch

The deep split in my lip awakens me. What creaks in my mouth is a paste of sand and blood. My blackened eyes stay shut. The wine in my hair smells sweet. In the gutter the ice has made half my face fall asleep. When I push on my knees to pull away my cheek, the mud kisses me goodbye.

Yes I know it, but how can I find your photo in my pocket without seeing that room again: that dark motel, the highway in that state along the West Coast, without feeling your hand, your grace playing blind man’s bluff with all this time and space that touches me with one finger: my chin, my hairline, to feel your fingertip find me and shape me like clay at the same time?

I made your ring with iron wire. The large cross above the bell tower emerged from the valley like the Paiute’s arrow fletching. It doesn’t matter that you know it. Do you feel it? I can. That everything is accomplished, and there is no return? Yes you said happy beyond the ridge of each season, where it’s impossible for you to stay, to be mine, to go away. Where it’s impossible to distinguish courage from a form of madness. In the wild, in Oregon, on the road of the West. Yes you happily said, where? looking for the cross.

John Poch is Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor at Texas Tech University. His poems and translations have appeared widely in magazines such as Poetry, Paris Review, and Agni. His most recent book is Texases (WordFarm 2019). He recently edited the collection, Gracious: Poems from the 21st Century South (TTU Press 2020).

Pietro Federico was born in Bologna, Italy in 1980 and currently lives in Rome. He is a writer, copywriter, story editor and professional translator. His books include Non nulla (2003, Ibiskos Editore, Empoli), winner of the prize “Il Fiore” Pistoia 2003; Mare Aperto (Nino Aragno Editore, Turin, 2015) winner of the Subiaco Award 2015; and Ceppo Award 2017; La maggioranza delle stelle – Canto Americano (Edizioni Ensemble, Rome, 2020).