February 2009

Daniele Pantano


Daniele Pantano is a Swiss poet, translator, critic, and editor born of Sicilian and German parentage in Langenthal (Canton of Berne). His next books, The Oldest Hands in the World (a collection of poems), The Possible Is Monstrous: Selected Poems by Friedrich Durrenmatt and The Collected Works of Georg Trakl, are forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. Pantano divides his time between Switzerland, the United States, and England, where he is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University.

The Oldest Hands in the World    

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.



Guinea Pigs    

Having accused—executed—bled—skinned—scattered them
For the beasts of Schoren Forest—we shot down the hillside
On a black sled. Scared shitless—my brother—clutching
My boyish waist—knees bent—nose against ribs—not
Because of what we'd done—speed—or father's finger-splitting
Belt—but because he'd forgotten his smile as the creatures' bodies
Went as cold and flat as Grandpa's blades used to slaughter Schweine.  
December never ended without it—them—hung like pink whales
In a heavy sky—blood-soaked hay—fires readied—ground littered
With hooves. And whenever mother lugged another fatback inside—
Großvater—gutting—would say: Remember—don't be taking unless you're
Smile when you kill—He'll remember when it's your turn
. Later—led
By mother's suicide note—I hit upon those meats—tucked away—
An overcured history of infidelities—marriages—abortions—a box
Of Walker's Pure Butter Shortbread Petticoat Tails filled with Wehrpaß
Battle Map—Iron Cross—Photos: Grandpa smiling—(striking, in uniform)—

(Strained, in Leningrad)—(deadly, between my freshly slit fingers).



Late December    

Clearly. Nothing much is happening. Kids continue to wish.
For snow. The rest. For something other than the possible.
Something other than the fog. Settling as thorns. Frozen.
On fences. Winter, in its subtlest arrival, barbs our barriers.
Still. No one misses the ordinary. Not even the blackbirds.
Just as no one, on either side, misses the end of the world.  



Rules of the Game    

(translation, Friedrich Duerrenmatt)

In the grimmest of moments
don't ask for the impossible
Play by the rules

Don't judge the judged
You're one of them
Don't interfere, you're
     already part of it

Be human, step back
We all get what we deserve
You can't save anybody

There's no injustice
only the terrible

You're what happens
It serves you right




Im Unerbittlichen
fordere nicht Unerfüllbares
Halte die Spielregeln ein

Richte nicht die Gerichteten
Du bist einer von ihnen
Misch dich nicht ein, du bist

Sei menschlich, nimm Abstand
Jeden trifft ein eigener Pfeil
Du kannst niemanden schützen

Unrechtes geschieht nicht
aber Furchtbares

Was geschieht, bist du
Es geschieht dir recht

—Friedrich Duerrenmatt


Copyright 1986

Diogenes Verlag AG Zürich

All rights reserved.



Daniele Pantano: Poetry
Copyright ©2009 The Cortland Review Issue 42The Cortland Review