This Unknown Here
By: Stefano Bortolussi
This is a here that you don't own —
you hanker after it for months, then catch it
by the summer's tail, risking every time
its savage reaction to your grasp,
a native lynx unsheathing her claws:
it belongs to you even less than it does
to those who pulled it from under
the leathery feet
the sacred sweats
the restless palominos:
the shame of it still stings
as a terminal of torture applied to your soft parts,
exposed to the cruelest repression,
the one of yourself against yourself:
it is with this awakening, after one more night
of a sleep so light that the distant cackle of a possum
exploded like a roar in your middle ear,
that the mental exile celebrates his comeback.
Stefano Bortolussi is a poet, novelist and literary translator. In his native Italy he has published three poetry collections (Ipotesi di caldo, 2001; Califia, 2014; I labili confini, 2016), one poetry pamphlet (Paternalia, 2020) and four novels (Fuor d'acqua, 2004; Fuoritempo, 2007; Verso dove si va per questa strada, 2013; Billy & Coyote, 2017). His first novel was published in English by CityLights Books (Head Above Water, 2003, translation by Anne Milano Appel).His poetry also appeared in a variety of Italian and international publications, both in print and online, including La Repubblica, VersoDove, Schema, Interno Poesia, Atelier, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Lake, Words for the Wild, Ovunque Siamo, The Ekphrastic Review, Vita Brevis, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Riggwelter.
"This poem is part of a sequence titled 'Exilience,' which originates from the fact that I divide my time between Northern Italy and Southern California, and that after 30 years of doing so I seem to have lost the ability to tell which is which, and especially which of the two is Home to me. Of course I don’t pretend to compare my sense of displacement to that of those who live or have lived a very different, and much more dramatic, form of exile; but alas, we poets live inside our minds, and thus I felt duty-bound to chronicle my grasping at reality’s straws. Hence these verses try to tackle the ambiguous, slippery concepts of 'mental exile,' dispersion and displacement, the title drawing a jagged, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t kind of line between Exile and Resilience."