Sicilian Rhapsody

Malidittu la lingua (V. Ancona)

If I don't learn English soon, I'll be ruined.

Damn this language I don't know how to speak!

So much embarrassment have I endured,

not mentioning what else may be in store.

In my own language I'm a Cicero,

but I feel like I'm speaking to the wall

when I speak English; this accursed tongue

is made of scribbling, ciphers – it's all wrong!

Vincenzo Ancona, "Damned Language"
(trans. G. Cipolla)

O furmicula! (S. Bonaccorsi)

Oh ant

so little,

this big berry

you want to lift?

Wait a moment

down there.

I'll help you

move it.

Oh, for a whim

all my own,

if I'm in the mood

to play God,

do you know what I'll do?

I'll crush you

and you will cease

to suffer.

Santi Bonaccorsi, "Oh Ant!"

'A speranza (O. Accetta)

Everyone seems to have the hope

that this world can be better

and they search for a great gift

expecting the day that will never come.

Orlando Accetta, "Hope"

Lu Vacabunnu (N. Provenzano)

When he embarks upon his daily journey,

the rain and sun, the coldness and the wind,

become his natural companions.

Then when night falls with slow and measured steps,

he pauses and awaits the coming dawn,

to start again to seek what he can't find.

Antonino Provenzano, "The Vagabond"
(trans. G. Cipolla)

Nni la fudda (V. Chessari)

You held my hand

in that colourful street market.

A green olive my welcome gift,

sour taste

contrasting with heady orange and lemon scents.

A coin from your worn wallet, mum,

full of holy cards.

We were not alone.

Every step a prayer

and a sweet whisper for you


who never stopped following us.

I used to see you too,

in her tired eyes

still waiting for you.

Virna Chessari, "Through the Crowd"
(trans. G. Cipolla)

Dialugu tra l'autori e lu sò libru (N. Martoglio)

There is no need for you to reach your goal.

As long as you leave on each street you pass

of restless Sicily the scent and soul,

you'll always be assured of much success!

Nino Martoglio, "Dialugu tra l'autori e lu sò libru"
(trans. G. Cipolla)

Amerisicula (V. Ancona)

I call this land Amerisicula!

It's true! We're almost all Sicilians here.

The immigrants from Sicily have turned

this Brooklyn into their dominion.

But to speak truly what is in my heart

we've made our homes here, here we earn our bread

in this hospitable and great America

which has no equal anywhere on Earth!

Vincenzo Ancona, "Amerisicula"
(trans. G. Cipolla)

Disgrazii (S. Bonaccorsi)

The disgrace of an animal is having to stay

in a pen that almost doesn't fit him

The disgrace of the shoemaker is to work

with a boss who does not know shoes

The disgrace of a teacher is to teach

what is beautiful to him, but to others dull

The disgrace of all disgraces is to knock

constantly at a door that no one will open for you.

Santi Bonaccorsi, "Disgraces"

Li frecci di l'abusu (N. Provenzano)

The arrows

that secretly

hit the invisible target

in the mind or body

of the victim of abuse,

fall together

with the silent tears,

despair, sobbing,

in the bottomless abyss

of time.

But, the open wounds,

the mental torment,

the physical pain,

do not vanish.

They do not die!

They remain alive,

in a state of

everlasting agony....

Antonino Provenzano, "The Arrows of Abuse"
(trans. G. Cipolla)

Nun sugnu pueta (G. Buttitta)

if it's poetry to sprout

a thousand hearts and arms

to squeeze wretched mothers

withered by time and suffering

denied milk in their teats

for their babes in arms –

their skin and bones taut

against a breast parched for love

(wait, I'm about to burst) –

then give me the power of words

so I'll know I'm a poet –

give me a firebrand –

the wretched of the earth's –

in floodtides of voices and songs

brandishing their rags

brandishing their rags

steeped in tears and blood ...

Gnazziu Buttitta, "I am not a poet"
(trans. J. Vitiello)

I chiavi dâ nostra lingua (C. Puleo)

Our thoughts are like fishes

that swim in a sea of memories.

In the closet of fantasy

we search for words still alive.

It is not easy

since up to yesterday

we used them festively

now they've become throwaways.

The keys of our language

no longer open

the oracular deadbolts.

The dowry left to us by Frederick

is lost in millions of suitcases.

All we now have is this rock in the sea

and the will to exist.

Sicilians with a mutilated language.

Carlo Puleo, "The Keys of Our Language"
(trans. A. Dieli)

'U vecchiu mulinu (S. Bonaccorsi)

There's always a crowd of people

in that old mill

but they bring little grain

or they bring nil

now there's but a sconce

or none at all

of the flour that once

over the world did fall

but the old mill

full of millstones

always with the same sound

keeps on grinding

by night and by day

with the same motions

seems to be milling away

but it mills nothing

Santi Bonaccorsi, "The Old Mill"
(trans. A. Dieli)

La Buccolica (G. Meli)

This quietude, this plant life,

these high mountains and these dales,

were by nature all created

for the hearts that are in love.

Giovanni Meli, "Bucolic Poems"
(trans. G. Cipolla)

Ventu (K. Millecro)

Wind, you that blow early in the morning,

speaking and whispering to those nearby,

you, who evoke fear in children's hearts

you, who blow hard, messing old people's hair

day and night, your whining is in people's ears.

Your sound is like wolves' howling in our sleep,

a giant that knows no respite or repose...

If you should stop, lightning and thunder follow,

as you know. Not to go wrong, push with your voice

the smell of Sicily, you, who are its light.

Ketti Millecro, "Wind"
(trans. G. Cipolla)