Le altre lingue: Canada (le aree anglofone) – Len Gasparini

Settimo capitolo della rubrica “Le altre lingue” dedicata al Canada anglofono. Il poeta selezionato da Antonio D’Alfonso è Len Gasparini. Buona lettura.

Len Gasparini (7)

Len Gasparini is the author of numerous books of poetry, including his Collected Poems (2015), five short-story collections, two children’s books, a work of non-fiction, and a one-act play. He has lived in Toronto, Vancouver, New Orleans, and Washington State, and now resides in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario. In 1990 he was awarded the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize for poetry.


Baudelaire’s Sketch of Jeanne Duval

How is it that her animal allure
bedevils my reason, makes me brood over trivia?
What kind of sorcery does she practice
that my soul succumbs to pure desire
and seeks in her the eternal feminine?

Here I sit, laudanum brandy in hand,
watching her dance a voodoo love dance.
Such wealth of buttocks, breasts that defy
gravity, lips you could trip over…
But she’s an obstacle to my happiness.

And why is it always always always
the eleventh minute after every hour
for which she finds me a new torment?
Behold, rank with musk, my black Venus:
a succubus seeking whom she may devour.



Separated from you by an act
Of my own choosing, and the misery
Of a broken marriage – a marriage
Whose sacrament had become a syndrome,

I picture you now, Elizabeth,
A young girl in a white spring dress,
Reading a book of fairy tales
On your eleventh birthday.

What is memory but an emotion
On vacation. Your image inhabits me
Like a mirror in an empty room.
Your beginning was once upon a time.

Is it for this your blameless absence
Suspends me like a bell?
My heart could be that bell
Ringing, ringing, ringing…

I remember reading Rapunzel to you
In our make-believe forest tower,
When the night wind was the Wicked Witch
And the magic word was Daddy.

Of redemption I sing, O my daughter.
If love is the beginning,
Let us begin to understand the end;
Then love can live happily ever after.


My Mother Loved to Dance the Tango

My mother loved to dance the tango –
Leroy Anderson’s haunting “Blue Tango.”
She loved to tango with my godfather –
A tall, moustached Sicilian barber.

Step by rhythmic step – through walks, turns,
Poses – in four-four time they moved as one.
Their bodies glided, they were the music.
All the wallflowers envied them.

My father never danced. He drank and smoked
And played briscola with his friends;
Stole furrow-browed glances at my mother
Who did not want the dance to end.


I Was a Poet for the Mafia

It pays to have relatives in Cicero
Who mean business in Chicago,
And connections in Detroit
Who make book for the big publishers
In New York and Toronto.

My typewriter was steely blue
And deadly portable.
Its hair trigger inspired my finger.
I forget the actual number of editors
Slumped over desks, pumped full of poems.
Rejection slips were their death warrants.
They didn’t understand
Poetry was a front
For the back of my hand.

I collaborated with torpedoes
Who were the avant-garde
In their profession;
Attended literary parleys
In sunny hiding places,
Like Miami, Las Vegas, Palermo.
I lived high and fine,
And never had a deadline.
My books made the WANTED list.
I was quoted on police line-ups
By suspects who knew my poems by heart.

The critics tried to convict me,
But my agent happened to be
A syndicate laywer with pull.
I became as infamous as Capone
With the power of the poem.

Alas! I learned too late that vice
Paid worse than verse
When a bullet obliterated my poetry.
I was a poet for the Mafia.
Bury me in Sicily.


Halloween 1945

I remember riding on my father’s shoulders
when I was four years old,
gazing at the starry sky
up above the world so high.
On front porches, jack-o’-lanterns
leered, grinned, or grimaced.
Silhouettes of bats, cats, and witches
clung to lighted windowpanes, trying to flee
into the deepening shadows outside.
Across the street a huge maple tree
stood in the midst of its own darkness.
Masquerading children chanted:
Trick or treat, smell my feet,
give me something good to eat.
On such a night old terrors crept to life again.

What errant jinni assumed the shape
of a mushroom cloud? What mystery split the atom
for better or for worse?
“The spirit of the Perverse,”
said so-and-so, quoting Poe.
Or was it Oppenheimer’s horror-scope?
“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
A gang of children gamboled around a lamppost
where a boy, dressed as the devil,
had built a bonfire of dead leaves.
The children danced with impish glee,
doing wrong for the wrong’s sake,
feeling the thrill of fear.
And I, safe on my father’s shoulders,
thrilled at the spectacle.

In copertina: Len Gasparini