Valerio Magrelli

Three Poems

Translated by Jamie McKendrick


I make no claim to speak the word
which shot from the heart can travel through
the twelve pierced axes
before it strikes the suitor's heart.
I trace my target out
in a circle round the object struck.
I make my mark out of the mark I've made:
whatever I hit. - I cheat,
choosing the bullseye after the shot's fired
and as though handling a faulty weapon
of which by this stage
I know the exact degree
of deviation, now
I have the sight in my sights.

How many tunes, heard once only,
which follow their own promptings,
which we can't get out of our heads,
which furrow the space there. In the wood
of violins x-rays show up
the intricate damage,
a snakey, shifting, threaded
coiffure rayed out with veins
that weave across and excavate
the fibrous interior.
So worm-eaten with music,
we become light-headed, empty-headed,
as if made of fine lace.


A stone slab immersed and gently tilted
towards the U.K., a launch-pad
of brightest green, warren and U-Boat den,
riddled, hollowed out, island and concealed arsenal.
Then, defeated, it must be cancelled out, rubbed off
the atlas like a silver scratch-card scraped by a coin
to see if we'll win something. TNT
roars for months in the cave of winter, blows
across the North Sea, within and under, till the village
is sawn in half. Now on the brandnew profile
of the rockscape (freshly minted in the sheer
excitement of this shoreline bricolage) its history
is inscribed in the exposed layers. Beneath the grass,
some kitchen tiles, asphalt, a sitting-room,
strands of sprangled wires, furnish a fitting
anatomy lesson in the open air, open
to the four winds.
But the plan ground to a halt, and where explosives failed
tourism succeeded. And here they are - the standard string
of duty-free shops, the island a market,
worm-eaten, sand-blasted and manhandled into
the shape of a chair that limps, a spent projectile aka
a dented disc left to float
among the thousand medal-souvenirs.