... the tale told/OF another Ferrara

Written by  Roberto Pazzi
Homage to Ferrara by a poet who lives there.
This collection of verse by Roberto Pazzi dedicated to Ferrara dates from recent years, back to the late 1990s. They first appeared in Il filo delle bugie, and La Gravità dei corpi, as well as in the national pages of the newspaper Il Resto del Carlino. They will shortly be republished by Marietti in Talismani, a personal anthology of more than three decades of poetry. They fix moments of the soul of the city which can easily be shared, that feeling of belonging to a place which unites the living and the dead, as always tied in with a strong faith with its visible forms, the rites of the seasons, with the ancient but always new shock of moving among the city's beautiful stones, midway between the pietas of the past and the uncertainties of the present, turning already to the future, to those who are yet to come.

So here is the modern state of liveability of Ferrara, plucked from the sickening stench which, for several decades now, has sometimes afflicted the people of the city, emanating from the industrial zones of the city. Here is the fear of the Po, which re-emerges in the ever-alive fear of flooding whenever there is torrential rain in the mountains. Here are the clocks, disagreeing about the time, from San Domenico, the Castello and, most accurate of all, the clock of the dead on the Certosa. And the infernal dream of coming back to Ferrara by car, uncertain whether to enter the city from the south or the north. And the wonder of rediscovering the ancient names of the streets, hidden by their newer names, like streets of the memory which will one day take us away with them.

In Ferrara

A sickening stench wakens you
on an October morning.
It is our time where you became lost
as we ourselves did,
bound to modernity
like a saint on the toothed
wheel of her martyrdom.
Your music, your art,
your poetry, did not save you,
nor the patience of one who runs
without hope of glory
chained to her,
the new slaves who come
and go each dawn and dusk
in and out, under your walls
because you cannot welcome them.
Afflicted, they pay for your fine stones,
if it were not for the children's drawings,
which tempt them to stay awake at school:
the little heads listen to the tale told
of another Ferrara
reflected in the waters of the canals
long gone.
Look, Saint Catherine,
sees from her convent fall
wounded by the Turks
the emperor of Constantinople...
see the rising threat of the Po...
hear that Rome has a new Pope...
And is there that Lucrezia Borgia rests.
But not the most beautiful woman,
the city sleeps there.
May neither we
nor our children rob you
of your dreams when you awake.

The clocks of Ferrara

Two clocks strike the same time
from their towers, keeping a prudent distance.
The useless repetition seeks out
the hardest ear
to convince it that time
is really passing
or is it the ear
which twists time and repeats
the hour in the empty room of the mind?

Back to Ferrara

I returned to Ferrara in a dream
unsure whether to enter
from the north or from the south.
To the north I was threatened by a sleep
broken by a mortal silence,
to the south by an awakening amid people
coming and going.
And I went around and around
and the tepid boredom of the nest
gave way to the fear of never coming in again,
I asked if it were the last time,
but my lips opened without sound,
behind the darkened glass of the car
people looked at me and did not understand
they believed I was singing,
I was already separate,
but I had no desire
to leave, I prayed for boredom:
even you disappoint me, even you
who seemed eternal here...


Stanley gave names to rivers
that no-one knew
And on the virgin maps of Africa
towns and waterfalls appeared
called forth by that expert on names.
The explorer never revealed
his formula for this summoning
but in town sometimes, lifting
my head to read the names
of the streets, I find reborn
that love for the unknown
held prisoner in the sleep of the stones
in the swirling of the waters

To the Po

Only the fear of death
unites my fellow citizens,
they sniff out the menace
when the river rises.
Suddenly they seek each other out, talk to each other
without knowing each other
and the question is the same:
"How IS the Po?"
All old friends
worried by the fate
of one of theirs,
thus they taste again the truth
of the void they possess.
A strange pleasure
in turning back power, age, titles to zero
and rediscovering school friends,
it rises between the city walls
between the amiable faces
of those who only yesterday were weighing you up
within these walls.
The water rises
and pride descends
for those who spend their lives
filling them like sacks
theirs alone and bottomless.
Now the void is sweet,
it gives respite
from the toil of wearing
the mask that you wear to pretend
to be desirable, from a distance
up there in the front row
in the reserved seats,
a tastier morsel of death.
The community of nothing
heals this sickness.
So come and threaten me
my dear brother, my great river
make me dream of a broad embrace
that unites everyone for ever,
but love us more
than we know
show us just the shadow
of your power,
do us no harm.