Texts by Renowned Swiss Authors: The Plimsoll Line by Fabiano Alborghetti We invite you to read their works, enjoy their contribution online and learn more about those inspiring personalities from Switzerland. In collaboration with Pro Helvetia, the Swiss arts council.

April 16, 2021 / Fabiano Alborghetti

Texts by Renowned Swiss Authors: The Plimsoll Line by Fabiano Alborghetti

See, we have lived more than one life,
now we have to weigh each thing
on the scales of dreams and unleash
memories that devour what the present was.

(Yehuda Amichai)

So many new words have been learnt
complicated words
clustered beyond the door, lying in ambush. 
And ambush has its own gaze:
it threatens, usurps, above all it persists
          not knowing silence.
The din of data, the ups and downs, thresholds
          the Excel spreadsheets, exact data 
          sensations, suspensions
 bodies named as the count progresses.
 Where is the count at?  

 Cities closed and opened and closed again
 untouchable, uncharted
 despite the well-known geographies.
 Shutters locked, our affections locked down
 easy extremes, it might seem 
 but separation is mandatory, 
 everything explained time and again:
 it’s for our safety. 
 That silence when everything was stopped: 
 repository of dark memories and schemes
 an inured, primal silence. A vigil
 a mineral space that has the breath of asphalt 
 a space stretching out into absence.
 Rare breeds of bird are back. 
 Some rivers are now teeming. Animals
 from the forest are crossing roads. This is 
 what happens when man is not around.
 Would you ever have believed it?

 The parting forms new tribes: 
 the careless, the unaware, the healthy, the sly
 those who take care of the agony of others…
 If you’re still scared when you wake up
          take my hand again. 
 Do your fingers still remember me? 

 The solitude of small towns, of trade
 the debt, the vacant spaces. And then exhausts, openings
 scant deltas perhaps
 those hints at some sort of recovery
 good enough to give the illusion all’s well again. 
 No vespertine rejoicings
 rather, grim gestures as we sail close-hauled
 Each carries the weight of the eyes,
 of what has been seen before.
 Groping in the void, one life
 next to one life, next to one life.
 And each remains too far asleep
 and vulnerable, innocent even 
 and cruelty looks like a misunderstanding. 
 Each was born outside this season 
            as we repeat, failing to see its end. 
 Does my fear somehow resemble yours?  

 Careless, the night baptizes some
 offering an imprint to their foreheads
             and they’re the disappeared. 
 Others are waiting, others denying, others pretending
                       that nothing ever happens. 
 Others despair, others look for love ties,
 find them anew. 
 Who is the one you’d want to call by name,
 feel close to you?  

 Walls are shifting
 light is locked out or scant
 a compendium to silence, to all the waiting
 that holds volition in abeyance.
 Night: an aisle, and it’s a vast one. 
 Waiting for the passing. And at each passing
 scales fall like rain onto the veil: the wail
 of too many ambulance sirens in the streets.
 So the presence of others is suddenly born
 and each presence is a periphery
 a destiny and a soul 
 a head crammed with regrets
 heart filled with desires. The unfinished part. 
 Today at least, have you reached out in kindness?  

 Opening up, locking down
 the gun fire of new data 
 and toponyms sluggish with quarantines.
 Newfangled yokes,
 gravity nailing us down here.
 It could be worse. I’m holding out.
 And you?  

 We disappear, far from those who remember us, 
 more and more. We need new measures,
                 perhaps a brand new start. 
 So shut the shops, except for the essentials 
 personal services, the post, banks and hairdressers
 pharmacies, maintenance and gardening
 petrol stations and cattle markets.
 Everything else will stay shut
 except for florists’.
 A choice no one has explained
 nor did anyone want to know
 it could be surmised, but not said.
 Is it so inhuman to not want to see?

 To spite the contraries
 and with no special occasion 
 —so as not to resemble the eternal penumbra— 
 a freesia, a rose, the aster or zinnia
 in the living room, to nourish my gaze 
            to feel close 
                     to normality. 
 When we go back to the ground of steps
 we’ll look at the pavement grasses
 sprouting from kerbs or around manholes
 or pushing up from under grates, stubbornly
 reaching for the sky, loading colour,
 welcoming the warmth. Or the roots 
 digging, wild vengeful veins
 or jagged spores, frowned-upon blossomings
 free and contrary and renewed
 even though surrounded by the land of errors.
 Everything will be all right—it will. When we can 
 may I invite you to come with me? 

 The gap between beauty and unbalance:
 there is no forecast
 for this or for the weariness, the dryness
 of gestures in the impossibility of doing otherwise
 but believe me: no one accustoms to being apart
 and that’s why we’ve trained our gaze.
 To see further beyond. 
 And there’s so much that’s worth the effort 
 despite the attrition... We need distance
 I know: now everything’s so exceedingly close
 and some repeat there’s nothing but ruins
 debris and ruins. But look closer: 
 what do you see? 

 To say ruins is to say loss, or grief.
 Much as they embody terror
 they are no promise: they’ve happened already.
 They’re the footprint of a fracture.
 But aren’t they also the exorcism against fear?  

 No, we won’t be just bodies riddled with absence
 but a range of miracles.
 Feel how long the world endures inside you. 
 And tell me: 
 where shall we begin? 

Fabiano Alborghetti has written critical essays, founded some reviews, created radio programmes and projects for prisons, schools and hopitals and worked as a cultural promoter. He is a board member of the  Babel and Chiassoletteraria festivals and the president of the Casa della Letteratura per la Svizzera Italiana. He represents the Italian language and Switzerland on worldwide official assignments.

Translated into more than 10 languages, his poems have been published in books, reviews and anthologies. He has published 6 collections, including Maiser, awarded the Premio Svizzero di Letteratura in 2018.

Translated by Cristina Viti

Download the original text in Italian

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