Scardanelli Speaks

Can you hear, will you comprehend, if I speak to you of my long, grieving sickness?
—Friedrich Hölderlin

How can I sing to you, Diotima, without wine
and the muted piano freezing me with gestures.
How can I describe, through their cadences, your slow ceremonies
if I cannot drink you from my cup,
if you don’t choke rowdily for me,
if the broken bottle cannot preserve your ardor
and reflexes.
There is no alcohol, venerated Greek of noble voice,
that compares to the clear humidities
in your big eyes in exile,
in your fresh faked tears,
in your foreign belly that fumes under the rain.
How can I sing to you with a dry throat,
how can I live if I can’t drink you while devouring you,
how can I sip your tense muscles—
high woman like emblem among men—
if you are no longer immured in glass,
if it becomes impossible to pulverize your bones.
The perfect sun of nightly creatures shines.
The venom silently wanders around.
With its jaw the quietude surrounds me.

Words of the Greek

Don’t keep me in your memory.
Don’t think about me.
Your eyes are filled with splendid bitterness.
Don’t look at me.
May your throat be flooded with my saliva.
Don’t choke me.
Stop filling my confused mind with worms.
Don’t make me rot.
Keep my incisor in a silvered box,
but don’t kneel before its radiances.
Don’t pray to me.
May my garments never become sails
for flagless ships.
Don’t rip me.
May my clots never live under your nails—
nor in the knuckles that smash temples.
Don’t curse me.
The salt shall find its fate in the wound.