Carla Scarano D’Antonio lives in Surrey with her family. She obtained her Degree of Master of Arts in Creative Writing with Merit at Lancaster University in October 2012. She self-published a poetry pamphlet, A Winding Road, in 2011. She published her work on various anthologies and magazines and is currently working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading. She and Keith Lander won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 with translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems. She writes in English as a second language. Her blog: http://carlascarano.blogspot.com/ Her website: http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/ She is a reviewer for Write Out Loud, you can find her reviews here: https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=85771 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=86100 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=88038 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=88593 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=89863 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=93453 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=98663 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=100292 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=104028 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=108008 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=112357 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=114164 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=114365
In touch with my daughter in Tokyo I would like to have you near me to touch you now to be sure we are part of the same bond of friendship and care – a family. But you are far away – busy busy, engaged with better chances, confrontation and confusion, hard work, swift changes. Photos on the kitchen shelves beam, heart-warming smile in a Howl’s-moving-castle mauve t-shirt, your favourite movie, and Italian red pepper earrings on the V&A background. When I feel sentimental, ache ticks spreading under the ribs; I send you a smile with hearts instead of eyes clapping hands a dancing lady and a hug a pumpkin for Halloween or a halo for your name day. The impersonal networking warms me up, though infertile, reminds me of the importance of imperfection in our infernal autonomy. Ants One summer, after digging deep in the rear garden to pave it, ants climbed up our French window poking into the living room. Did we turn their lives upside down? At first they proceeded in scattered grouping then ordered queues. We sealed the French window with silicon, washed the floor with bleach, sprayed vinegar and water, added essential oils, lemon juice, baking soda, as prescribed. They came back every night, every day, a relentless army of black things, silent invaders, reclaiming our space. They reached the kitchen in due time, found their way to the shelves and cupboards, biscuit boxes, sugar jar, flour bags; the tiniest food remains, crumbs or juicy drops attracted hundreds. Growing in confidence they settled under the floor boards. We gave up, bought a bottle of ant killer powder - fast and effective lasting up to three months - sprinkled it round their paths. They disappeared in a day, of course, their insignificant bodies dissolving under our feet. Good Friday I was surprised to see you at church on Good Friday, the day of betrayal and killing, when we kiss the naked body on the cross and cry for all our losses. You were there with your deaf mother, I was there with mine and her elderly friends. We quickly caught up fifteen years, my move to England, the new job, my son’s wedding, graduations, my father’s death and my mum living happily. You were just the same, unmarried, helping old relatives organizing their lives and yours, travelling alone mostly, your sister pulling out. Everything looked under control, neat words ordering a life. What the world throws at me she loses the world in her belly her thighs are fractions of petals her face is a riot rain and smoke smile in a window wood and sea water listen to the civil war her hair is a rope out of a refugee camp old and new things burn cautiously without breaking anything nothing that matters she bends the rake the hook and the shadow ties continents in small colonies her body marked by the seasons Sailing North We left with cherry trees blossoming, people arranging polished horns in a window. Opposite to south Vegetation grew rusty, gold, scarlet red silver grey, brown. Inhaling thro, branches torn bare frozen. North: thorn, torn, horn ton, not. Moonshine stream The moon boat sails the gloom of dusk, the frozen waves glide the winter shore: cawing of crows, whistling of decoy, cattails stand in skyline of glass. But in the night another song is heard of dissonant tunes and open tones, its melody a daring clash of sounds, rippling drops on barren soil. I’ll board the boat in hush and voyage out to land of unrecorded sorrows; we’ll meet there to clutch speckles of dawn, flashes of tomorrow. Janet You know when your mum marches in swinging her necklace chain: she is the boss, the strong black woman who came to this country and made her way up. But she doesn’t want her child to go too far, break barriers yes, but not too far. Oh Janet, your vermillion fingernails wave, weaving a protective net around your children, midnight eyes search their rooms for hidden traps, devious tracks, looking out beyond your immaculate blouse and azure skinny jeans. You know that to survive they need to be topnotch, or playing dead to let danger pass, absent when rage blows up, when the ritual slaughter happens, when there are no brakes to human brutality and the sacrifice falls. Stay at home my child, with my curry chicken and cornbread braids of earth and wire. Canada Water Floating bird houses swim offshore, watermarks vibrate like quivering voices in wafer air; thinning sounds in the dead calm of the lagoon. The favour of the wind erases colours, brings new found land ashore; the secret of the pioneer is in blurring contours, evanescent circling tours. Different forms emerge: Cree and Ojibwe, tongues of the land and the sea, their signs lick stones with primordial drawings; petroglyphs trace the way back to the origin, which was rewritten. Missionaries wrote their alphabets shape-shifting the native core, now powerless but still there, haunting presence of guttural sounds in place-names, creeks, lakes, rivers and mountains. The new house has unfilled spaces I measure with my thoughts, wide windows and verandas bursting with light, a white staircase spiralling up, knots in the honey wooden floor like dark birthmarks or gigantic ants I skip by instinct. The corners are sealed with golden velvet, the walls are cream. On the roof the skylights mirror the blue in trembling reflections. I lean from the balcony drowsily looking down at the grey tarmac, a pool of flames. Meeting my grandmothers i. Conforta, from Cortona Her back is hunched down, doubled over to sow, gather, clean and scrub. Her hands have blackened skin and twisted fingers, but still she smiles with scrutinising eyes. Her long strong arms are forged to beat the laundry and carry logs for the fire. Seven children born, fed, immeasurably loved, then lost, the boys, not the girls, they were of a different cloth, flexible and untameable, like you. ii. Orsola, from Meta di Sorrento Round like a demijohn, she used to sing sentimental songs, Torna a Surriento, O surdato ‘nnammurato, O sole mio, with a well-tuned voice that resounded of the smooth waves of the Gulf of Naples. But in her black eyebrows there was the sharpness of a steel determination disguised in her soft arms that kneaded the pasta dough on the Formica surface of the table, her gold bracelet clinking. Almost illiterate, she knew what the future held. My mother Last night I dreamed of my mother, her soft light touch on my face. She said, I had some free time and came here. I was melting in her tenderness under the touch of her smooth old fingers, her cheerful voice moved, almost in tears. Why did you come here? What happened? But she didn’t reply, only her love surrounded me as if it was the last time. And I drank it with dry lips. A safe den When my girlfriends come we delineate our territories. I build a fence with a cradle, two chairs and a stool, a cut-out space that protects and defines against trespassing. Knitted blankets cover my baby dolls, rags are my curtains. I arrange kitchen tools and food toys in small plastic pots and pans, pretend to warm a bottle with fake milk, no hole in the tit. When everything is ready we trade a camisole with a spoon and comb or two small dolls against a big one. I dress the dolls up, comb their hair. Everything is neatly lined up, unedible. Then we sit and wait, rearrange our possessions and wait. There is a gap right at the end of my compound, between my side and my sister’s side, we squeeze out and play hide and seek abandoning our beloved things. My father, back home I prepared myself for your coming back in the evening hungry and irritated after a full day of work at Casal Bertone with its dilapidated buildings and worn out people. Your steps hit the marble floor resolute and implacable. You had some home visits until late your demanding patients always complaining, taking their own advice, doing it their way. Then something triggered your anger, it fell on us hot and volatile, unforeseeable like hail on a summer day. Now I realise that it was only a phase an interruption that did not exclude love. But back then, your shouts pieced my guts. I learned to forge an armour around my stomach and keep still while the storm raged. I was pregnant, I was full The exam room was busy with students, future gynaecologists, I was surprised. The professor told me to undress from waist down, lie down on the bed, open my legs and put my feet on the props. He looked at my privates and commented that I was more hairy than normal. Then they examined the different parts of the vulva, its size and colours, they named the labia minora, labia majora, the perineum, urethra and clitoris, which he touched with gloved fingers to let my vagina open more easily. He thrusted a bivalve speculum to peruse the inside. They didn’t identify any sores, genital warts or spots, didn’t mention any particular smell and concluded I was all right on the whole. Because of the examination, I was allowed a free scan. Even then I could tell she was floating happily inside my belly, rapturous. Valentina i. There are difficulties which affect all functional areas, especially ability to integrate and combine the various functions. She shows psycho-motor instability, difficulty in recognising and respecting rules of interaction and tolerance of frustration. C.A.R. Social Cooperative for Rehabilitation, Rome, 12 March 2007 So fragile, she crawled, her head bending backwards her small hands like sparrow claws touching Luigi’s beard. The orphanage walls like an empty cave. She’s lost, an insignificant dot, near to extinction. We shrink to see such deprivation and think we can rescue her give her space, include her in our happy family. Flying home, she cries desperately, but calms down when she meets our beautiful, dearly loved, healthy children. And then she hardly rests rushes everywhere, grabs everything, fills the bathtub with shoes, lines up toys and books along the corridor. Spins around for hours. No speech, no sign of understanding. At the hospital, they close her cleft palate. In her heart the Ductus Botalli is mended. She wears hearing aids and attends therapy. But still she spins, lines up things, has no speech, she pulls out her hearing aids. Unruly as she can’t cope with any rules. We wonder if we should’ve left nature do its work without rescuing her; we were told we must help the poor but remember you will neglect your children. Meeting all her needs satisfying all her requests mixed with guilty feelings of not doing enough to satiate her never-ending hunger for attention, clothes, food, her food, only salad or bananas, all rice, salami and more salami. We keep her inside the family, looking after her in turns cuddling her, playing with her. Autistic is the final verdict, not a label, but it is a relief to have a name. The world outside is a rattling of sounds dazzling images. Inside frustration self-bites and self-scratches, blue bruises bloom on thighs and arms expanding, demanding, destroying. ii. How much courage does it take to move to another country. I often think how it happened and how it worked so smoothly and quick. Two children in a boarding school two at home in Lancaster, Valentina in a specialist school with her blue uniform and Peppa Pig school bag in a class of six shaping her life through PECS. She sorts the colours: blue/yellow/white/red, aligns: grapes —honey —olive oil thumb up —smile. iii. Then everything precipitates with teenage meltdown after meltdown, her sudden attacks to staff and pupils, refusing uniform, ripping clothes, smashing doors, wrapping blankets and bed sheets around her changing body. The walls are dirtied and littered with holes. We feel helpless, lost. She is lost too. Her rage is a labyrinth of frustration; overloaded she fights, we fight for her and with her. Autism isn’t an illness, isn’t contagious; it’s a different way, a different, different way of coping with this strange world. iv. And now that she is leaving for her own life in a place where they know what she needs in spaces she can cope with with people who can feed her complex needs, looking at her, I think she will be happy in her new life. And now that she is leaving, and though it was so hard, I think she is a brilliant young lady who deserves to live and find her own place like all of us and I’ll miss her and I’ll stay with her. To Violetta So sweet so dear unbelievably new. Your chubby cheeks and turned up nose thin mouth make me melt in tenderness. Your determination to grow gripping at your father’s finger resting on your mother’s breast, sleeping your sweet dreams, streams of milk in a world of strange noises and familiar voices. You’ll find your way through the maze, little by little, step by step at your pace, amidst friendly faces. You’ll see bright days and fog, flowers withering and blooming, opening to better futures. Umbrella In this country of rain and sunny spells with arches of trees along narrow roads, ochre and burnt sienna in autumn, lusciously green in spring and summer, valleys and hills surface the landscape. Dreams are daffodil-shaped, wisteria-buzzing, hydrangea-blooming, the fountain splashes in Lakeside drive, the shape of an umbrella. But gusts of wind rattle behind the lanes, echoes of machine guns from faraway lands washing shadow of corpses on our tranquil shores. Shaken for a moment we think we can fix it, mend the wrongs that dig holes in our stomach, make their world similar to our world. We say, whatever it takes we will give, they will live, though seasons pass unrelenting. The Peak April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land The end of April was a contagious bombing harvesting thousands of lives among the poor and the elderly, then the richest too. The cruellest attack we’ve ever had. Casual, the virus grew and fell, lingering in pools and grass, tenacious, breeding itself from moisture out of the quiet land. The stillness of the landscape, human-less like old postcards of renowned sites. The reappropriation of the vegetation growing wild, animals invading empty areas trashing the remnants. Locked down, the memory of open spaces still alive stirs dull lilacs fading in pots, geraniums bloom in spring rain lettuce growing becomes infectious tomatoes are reluctant to ripe beanstalks grip on sticks meandering to the top. The liveliness of the un-human whispering our decay in the corners of the back garden. Do the desires of the dead sip through the porous ground? They rest alone in the deserted land forgotten, unforgettable. Underground tubers and onions swell mixing silence and dirt. Cycling solo I think I will miss the quietness of the streets cycling solo in slow motion meandering along Guildford Road with my 40-year-old Atala clanking, the golden chrome dotted with rust and the headlight broken. I ride in a circle around the area where I live, the road has the shape of a loop, it ends in nothing. Or I venture out of the gate when I feel bolder, I turn right on Windsor Road and reach the end of the village or ride as far as Heather Farm. The virus has not reached the shores of our lake. In the pond, where an umbrella-shaped fountain splashes reassuringly, ducks paddle with their little ones and an ash heron appears occasionally, a good omen, like a discreet and protective god. The doors are shut but I can see that the houses are lively inside, with rainbows at the windows and baskets hanging at the sides. In the undergrowth behind the houses a wilder and more invading kind of nature expands in nettle, wild fennel, wild garlic, pink purslane and more. The sky sighs in relief, less carbon monoxide emissions fewer people around, more space between one another distancing and emptiness prevail. I savour the gaps, allowing aloofness and boredom. Tasting blackberries The best ones grow in shadow Margaret Atwood, Blackberries Cycling to Heather Farm I see blackberries gleaming in the sun black spots and red spots among avid spines, the biggest and ripest ones recede in the deepest undergrowth – they will feed blackbirds and sparrows or melt in the mud. I have no plastic bag or bowl so I gather them in my surgical face mask, collect quite a few gobble up some, their wild taste bursts black under my fingers. I feel satiated by the little sweetness, treasure their blackness that absorbs the late summer sun. I make off with my bundle of pitch-dark garnets – furtive as I go. Back home I simmer them in a pan with lemon juice and sugar seal the jam in jars with the label Gratefulness. You can begin the journey of life anew You can start again for good after the lockdown, plan to go back shopping in charity shops, hunting for lucky picks a pair of red shoes for £ 5 embroidery threads for 50 p a china bowl for £ 2. You can celebrate again in Italian restaurants with family, luscious amatriciana, rich pizza with burrata and prosciutto, indulging in tiramisu and sorbettos. Hug your sons again and kiss your daughters, finally cuddle your granddaughter. Travel to Italy again, caress your mother’s frail bones her soft cheeks. And swim once more float in a large pool, your body weightless, striving to reach the other side. Covid-19 haiku Imprisoned in winter lockdown, wild doings. Covidian temporality plague-stricken monotonous rhythm of repetitions. Flourishing storytelling in suspended bubbles, terrible intensity. To Sarah Everard I never told you but I dream wild dreams before waking up, dreams of fear and sorrow. Darkness shades the underpass footsteps follow me breath shortens in the lungs, a storm approaching drum beats. My hair tightens to the skull, the end of the tunnel is near. I hear chatting on the other side, somebody laughs. Stench of alcohol behind my shoulder an invisible hand fumbling, grasping the air inches from my ear. I rush to the top. This time too I would make it.
On Thursday I went to the supermarket and did my usual round: salad, fruit, vegetables. While I was selecting the oranges a net bag of lemons rolled near me. It opened. A lemon came out of it, yellow, bright, its oval shape with two nipples looking like two firm breasts stuck together at the base. I picked it up, put it back in the net, and the net in the trolley. I went on with my round: potatoes, chicken legs, chicken breast, Cumberland sausages, haddock, bread rolls, salami, sliced bread, sugar, tomato passata, fusilli, linguine, orange juice, toilet rolls, ice-cream, tablets of water softener. A short queue at the till and home to unpack. When I came to the lemons I set them on a white chopping board and cut them in the middle to part the two breasts. I put them in a row on the board: eight rounded teats, their nipples set up, alert, ready to feel any shifting of mood. I handled a half with both hands and squeezed it, squeezed it within my palms. The liquid trickled into a glass bowl. Then another one, harder this time. The flesh had to be crushed properly, giving up all its juice. Another one: the pale yellow liquid was filling the bowl. My hands ached but I was doing a good job. I stopped when I exhausted them. Now the half lemons were empty rinds heaped on a corner of the board: flabby, hollow bags good for nothing. I poured the lemon juice in a jug of water, added two spoons of sugar and stirred. I threw the dry nipples in the bin.
Knit three, purl three: thirty three stitches for Peter’s jacket sleeve. 5mm needles. I chose dark blue for a boy. Derventwater glimmers in the distance, silvery stripes of green, grey and navy. Knit three, purl three. The apple of my eye, St John’s Primary year 5. Supersoft Aran: 75% acrylic, 25% wool. It’s thick but feels smooth on my fingertips. I’m not used to such thickness; I’d rather work with 3mm. But this is ideal for a jacket. Janet the nurse bought me five shiny leather-covered buttons for it. She always tries to help and make me feel at home. He’ll love it and wear it on Sunday when he goes out with Julie and Robert. She’s pregnant, a second child at last, due in spring. We hope it’s a baby girl. Use petal pink, peppermint and cream coloured wool. I’d die for that. Make all these tiny cardigans, leggings and bootees. Yes please, let it be a girl. Knit three, purl three. The blunt polished points catch the wool; the stitches slide smoothly on the needles. Pass it from one needle to the other, work it, make it worthwhile, useful. From a yarn ball to a jacket, my valuable work. Because I’m of no use now, sitting in a wheelchair the whole day, lying on a bed at night. I can use only my hands, to knit dolls, scarves, mermaids, mitts, socks, hats and pullovers for charity. My mind works with my fingers. And the lake was ten thousand silver ripples trembling in my veins, brushing my sweating arms, when he whispered: you’re my only one. Knit three, purl three, the stitches glide. When he died I felt relieved. No more of him, no more of him for the rest of my life. God be blessed. I could relax, knit in peace, go out when I could still walk, without asking permission, chat on the phone without being listened to, clean when I fancied it, cook what I liked. I don’t regret my life. Three children. All the washing and cleaning (no washing machine for more than ten years). The cold water like ice trapping my hands when I rinsed the clothes. The house had to be as clean as a whistle, tea always ready at six. And I worked three days a week at the school canteen. Knit three, purl three, the needles ticking like an inflexible clock. Once cleaning the bath I found long brown hairs in the tub. I asked him; he shrugged. I didn’t ask a second time. Those hairs spinning a web through my brain, trapping my thoughts. They could at least have cleaned up afterwards. But I didn’t really care; it was too late to care. I’d had enough of him before he had of me. The children left and got jobs. Just me and him, the swine. I’d have killed him if I’d had the guts. He’d have killed me, too. But we carried on as if nothing had happened. Nowhere else to go, no one else to care for. I felt too tired for another love: frustrated, fed up. After sixty it’s a deal, not a love affair. Knit three, purl three. I started a knit and crochet group at the library. I had my followers and fans. We taught each other: double crochet, treble, half treble, double treble. We learned how to increase, decrease, pick up stitches. We worked four to six hours undisturbed in a cold room once a week. Knitting kept us warm, words unravelling, tangled skeins loosening. Knit three, purl three. Then Julie had Peter. Cable, stocking stitch: this is what I need to use for his jacket. It was like giving birth again, painless and more touching. He was there: small, defenceless, so tender my eyes welled up. I was ready to protect and cuddle him. I felt I was worth something again. Knit three, purl three. At seventy-eight he started to forget the way home. I had to write the address on tiny pieces of paper and tuck them in his pockets. The police brought him home once: they caught him peeing at the entrance of Bridge Road Primary as the children were coming out. Fancy choosing a primary school to pee on! His brain was a rusted machine working at intervals. Sometimes I felt like flesh in his arms, a piece of meat he slashed. A piece of nothing. Knit three, purl three. This is what is left of me: hands knitting in a wheelchair. Better now than before. Churned up, that’s what I’d felt, always slogging away. And they expected it; everybody did. I screamed inside, howled at them. But they couldn’t hear me. They turned their faces away. Now I can rest. Knit three, purl three: twelve inches, almost there. I work the two sleeves together so I can’t go wrong. I make them the same. An old trick Lana told me. Lana the bitch, they called her. She had fun in her forties; they said she was hot. She said she felt it like pain. Where? I asked once. Everywhere, she said, even in my head. She needed a man to love. She was honest. She knew her own feelings. But men wanted fresh, rosy flesh. She had to dress up to make them stand up. Ah, her collection of revealing dresses and leather things, like toys and costumes for a masquerade. My cheeks were flaming when I saw it. Funny life, isn’t it? Knit three, purl three. Eighty-five. On the water sails blown by the wind are like inflated balloons. The golden leaves of the maple tree fill my window. Maybe this is the last time I’ll see their yellow flames against the blue, most beautiful when almost dead. Oh, I missed a stitch.
All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.
Moving out (28/02/2021)
E cortesia fu lui esser villano (20/02/2021)
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