Three poems by Lorenzo Carlucci


Translated from the Italian by Todd Portnowitz



nothing but iron mouth
a chest of ash and shadow
stiff atonal mouth
and scattered limbs

there’s nothing in this region
but war flags, raised
in every color

there are no animals
silence lies down
with the daughters of men

high flags and flag poles
oases of dry wood
trunks of swaying palms

there’s nothing in this region
stamen of an ashen flower
breath of shade and stone
a sacrificial goat

nothing else: emerald and destiny
time on its war march
across a desert


Between a garbage can and a vending machine, on a red bench.
My life is a scrap.
It’s obvious, my heart welcomes you in like a sky.
The bench is red like the vending machine.
It’s obvious that these grocery bags are sawing my fingers.
I welcome you in my scrap-rag life because I’m empty. I’m all yours.
My hands are empty. My chest breathes the breath of the sky.

My hands are empty, my blood is red like this bench.
Go on now, there’s blood in you. Get out of here.

Between a trash can where, any minute,
the head of a squirrel will pop out
or a mouse
a bird
and a vending machine where, any minute,
a Coca-Cola will pop out
I smoke a cigarette and throw it down half-smoked.

My breath is a scrap, you cross over me.
The half-smoked cigarette I throw down
crosses over
my chest.
This silence is unbearable. Get out of here.
This sitting here under a scrap of sky
is unbearable. Come and pick me up.
From the garbage can where, any minute,
the face of a dirty squirrel will pop out,
nothing pops out. Get out of here now.
Go on selling plants lined up in a shop window.
My pockets are empty.
I pay for every little shrub with a sickness.
Come and pick me up.

From the vending machine where, any minute,
a Coca-Cola will pop out
a Coca-Cola pops out.


Bounding summer joy
euphoria and compassion
spores from the whitest flower
seeking a stranger’s lap.

And at the root of this joy, a pain,
amidst the leaves of an isolated tree
at the very root of this joy, a pain as clear
as a leaf in shadow among leaves
white-washed by the sun

When they shift in the wind
a friend’s distorted face
glimpsed among an army of the dead

like a hand that rouses a shoulder
on a summer afternoon

At the root of this joy, a pain
a ghost’s refusal to visit you
your friend’s refusal to bring you food

Leaf in the shadow of a leaf

We articulate ourselves with words
euphoria of detachment and of solitude

Like leaf hidden by leaf,
pain within joy
euphoria of summer
euphoria of your solitude
euphoria of your nakedness

Your hand rousing a shoulder
in the afternoon
your refusal, ever to visit
the rooms in my house.

Our hands wave to each other all on their own
like a tree that sways in the sun
like a leaf white-washed by a nearby leaf
we shake our own hands
and in our own laps we rest

In articulation is the curse
of our perception

Oh, to be mercury
and evaporate in a circle of gods!



Lorenzo Carlucci (1976, Rome) is a professor of mathematical logic at the University of Rome. He has published two poetry collections, La comunità assoluta (Lampi di Stampa, 2008) and Ciclo di Giuda e altre poesie (L’Arcolaio, 2008), and a third, Sono qui solo a scriverti e non so chi tu sia, is forthcoming from Camera Verde press. In 2015, his poetry was featured in the anthology of Italy’s best emerging poets, the Quaderno di poesia contemporanea italiana (Marcos y Marcos, 2015; Notebook of Contemporary Italian Poetry).

Todd Portnowitz is the translator of Midnight in Spoleto (Fomite, 2017) and Long Live Latin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018). He is a recipient of the Raiziss/de Palchi Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, and his original poetry has appeared in The Shallow Ends, Virginia Quarterly Review, Cortland Review and Antioch Review. A co-founder of the Italian poetry blog Formavera and of the writer-translator reading series Us&Them, he lives and works in New York.

Published on June 5, 2018.


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