National Poetry Month Spotlight: Daniele Pantano

On this chair, as I am every morning, waiting
For the cappuccino and brioche to arrive,
And the girl with the oldest hands in the world,
I sense exile is a city reared by eternal artifice.
All sweet violence and thought and repetition.
Beyond what history has left of this topography,
The cup is whiteness, the coffee brown semen.
My first sip makes her appear with provender
And sandals from behind the insignificant ruins.
But for the time being, ruins are eucalyptus trees.
And she not a girl on her way to feed chickens
But a face concealed by dripping nets.  Dressed
In black sails and hair dyed a Roman blonde.
The lips of her soul are burning sages, I know.
Her name, I don’t.  Only her hands matter.
Laden with broached scars, they remind me––
Home is where children sprout in rippled soil.
Where footsteps are mosaics of possibility.
To go on.  Finish breakfast.  Read the line
That ends in God’s breath.  Again.

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A: Not really. All I remember is that I wrote the first few lines when I was in Sicily back in 2002 (or was it 2003?). I then took them with me to Switzerland and left them in an old shed. A few years later, somewhere near Tampa, Florida, I found a poem with a girl in it.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: To be honest, everything I read, whether it’s a novel, a book of poems, a collection of short stories, an essay, or something written on the wall of a bathroom stall, for example, makes me want to grab a pen and write. There are certain books, however, that make me want to do a bit more than simply “write.” Try Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 or Durs Grünbein’s Ashes for Breakfast.

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: I’ve had plenty of sublime meals, including a 15-course blowout up in the mountains of Sicily, which lasted well over seven hours. I’m easily satisfied, though, so just give me some Arancine (Sicilian rice balls), and I’ll eat like a god!

Daniele Pantano is the editor and translator of The Possible is Monstrous: Selected Poems by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, available for purchase at Black Lawrence Press. His next books, The Oldest Hands in the World (original poems), Oppressive Light: Selected Poems by Robert Walser, and The Collected Works of Georg Trakl are forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press.