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To Elda Paván
and Eduardo Bellessi,
To their parents, their grandparents,
and all their ascestry of dreams and ashes

«Blank promissory notes were your hands»

José Pedroni

    (María de Alcorta)

His voice a bandolier,
my father tells us;

They invented a country without knowing it.
They invented
the way they raised their eyes,
their first, their roof.


There were no soldiers
in my family
no doctors or poets.

I have no saga to tell
no epic
upheld with the sword
at the haunch of a ready mare.

Just a handful of stories
that don't even tend to
the names of trees
of the river
of birds dawning
the country days
in a small Italian village
lost with the death
and memory of my grandparents.

I have inherited
an Adriatic shimmer
and a great hoe
that reaps every harvest.


My mother's father
for a family tree had
the gear of an ox
that pulled the plow.

They planted their pitchforks
a brass bed
and vast wisteria
south of Santa Fe.

They reaped their own crops
and after

they aimed the ox
toward La Pampa
to reap a harvest far away.
No Indian
conquests or deserts.
Protected by prayer
will and morning star.

It's true there was
an accordion player
in my family
and friendship with peasant guitarists
from who knows where
fate of this land
good for crossing
the price of forgetting
and poverty.


In a time of locusts
or drought

in a time of lies

when grain farmers
rush into
bankruptcy fraud

black cloud
bird of prey

or the taxes were high
the time came
to trade it to gringos
for cows
and all their power

my grandmothers traded
the percale of their dresses
for rough sacks
left over
from corn
or from wheat.

In a time of locusts
or drought

in a time of lies


Aunt Asunta roasted the chestnuts:
a fluttering of skirts and scarves
black in the black
farm-oven's throat.

Aunt Asunta told stories.
The Bible was her stock
passed through the sieve
of the kitchens and stables of Italy

Aunt Asunta told
the fable of the mule
sterile from refusing
to haul the boy and her mother
fleeing from Herod, from slaughter.
Sterile for not believing
that miracles are clearly real.
The power of imagination, say,
or the imagination of power.

She also told
the story of the old man
who planted a vine
though this vine
never bore fruit
while the old man was living.
And the old man picked juicy grapes
purple, amber, crimson
among the green leaves reflecting
the parches suns of old Italy,
like a miracle that
headless of his own death
his planting favored life.
Aunt Asunta told stories
full of old curses and miracles,
yoked to sweat, justice, and work.
Dust gathered the voices
of the kitchens and stables of Italy.

Dust, words,
taken in by the children
of their family as inheritance
of fragmented class and blood.


There were peaceful revolts
against landowners.
Serious debt.
A phonograph where
Gardel was singing.
Marriages, baptisms,
at harvest end.

I grew up
on the humid pampa.
Green rock island of dreams
and farms.
Hired hands and peasants
were my ancestors.
Italian, Guarani,
Quechua words
mingled in
my child alphabet.

I have no saga to tell
no epic
upheld with the sword
at the haunch of a ready mare.

But I do have
a handful
of stories that where
they are told

bring to mind the Village

in the cruel night
and a great hoe
that reaps every harvest.


Diana Bellessi
English Translation from documental «El jardín secreto»

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