Words and Time (1979) Alaide Foppa (Translation by Yvette Siegert)


A childhood

nursed on silence,

youth built

from departures,

a life that

produces absence.

It’s only from words

that I expect

a total presence.


I expect nearly

everything from words

without even knowing

what they promise

what they deny me

what lies beyond

their attending echo.

I don’t know whether

they come from my lips

or if someone else

is dictating them

in a mute language

I will not parse.


Do I hide

in words

to cover

my nakedness?

Or is it that

they undress me

layer by layer,

until they reach

the last concealing veil.

I fear words:

their scratches hurt

the newborn thing.

I fear they’ll wreck

untouched feeling.

This tough rind

of poetry,

this rough mask

on its lucid face—

oh, but to be able

to turn into music,

and to tear the air

open, effortlessly.


Why do I write?

Because I’m alone

and my own voice

would frighten me?

Because I wake up

from a confusing dream

I don’t remember?

Or is it simply because

I find a blank page

and have a knot

in my throat.


All my life

in search of words—

suitable ones,





to tell,

without telling,

a secret that hurts you,

to let

the wound bleed,

to let it comfort

for not doing

what can’t be done.


Poets are

usually speaking to someone.

They address the multitude,

bearing a brilliant sword

or holding out a staff.

They sing sweetly

to men at war,

or tell of dazzling

landscapes that disarm us.

Garlands are cast

in their path.

But up

in my hidden nest,

I treat poetry

like witchcraft,

like a secret,

like forbidden fruit.


Poetry at night—

almost wordless.

Where does it come from?

Why does it linger


the night

its indecipherable language.


I would like to

say everything

with just a few

every-day words,

and would like for

the act of saying


to make the air vibrate

with fresh colors

tangy flavors

elegant ratios



But do we

even need the word

if the apple exists?


It’s not the words

that speak:

they say very little,

they deceive.

But maybe now and then

a hidden voice will

whisper behind

the words we know,

and take us by surprise.


Perhaps all

I’d need is

a single word

for opening

the window wide,

a keyword,

a key to admit

you into silence.

If I can’t find it,

I would rather

remain locked up.


I will not lose

this salt grain

this seed

this spark of sun

this exotic germ

this gold dust

between my fingers

this nostalgia

for what’s never been

this hidden shoot

this word that

an unfamiliar hand

is trying

to write,

this hand, that maybe,

this time, is my own.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. puzzleblume says:

    Being a poet to one-self seems to me scratching windows in a state of mind that means sitting in a kind of a tower, where old guardians from the past dictate every thought until poetry scratches windows into the walls and make the light of sense and consciousness come in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So poetic Puzzle!

      Liked by 1 person

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