Silvia Bortoli

Silvia Bortoli

Poems from the red note book


There’s no violence
in me
there’s only
an imperfect order
- the slight
swaying of the water in the bowl –
and only a thread holds the vertical, the stair
without steps,
like an arrow in the direction.
There’s no passion
that isn’t veiled
by reason
and the eyes
scurry like a shuttle,
like the needle that scrawls the cardiogram
and measures the volcano.



few and far between
and bound by a thread
that the mind drags
and wraps round a finger.
Few and arranged in rings
like vine rows
at the distance used
goblet of fluttering birds
like cherries
in the freeze of morning.



Open your mind and lean
on the indigo your thought
like a light finger
which softly probes the body
of words
and follows
the hare’s
anxious flight
and in the vineyard
captures a sign of it –
the brief thud
of the dark paw
against stone



is the set of tackle
that serves for fishing.
So it is with us –
for you
I don’t know what, and the stiff wrist
keeps me well away.
Your caution kills.


I devote myself
to the noviciate of rage.
I’ve shaved my hair,
the ceremonial robe
is a plumage of no
hanging from the door-handle
on my wrists
I tie the bells
and drink the water of absence
drop by drop.
The psychopomp
accompanies the memories – cattikins –
drowned in the bucket.


What pain is like
if you want you know,
- logic-choppers of the instant –
follow the art of analysis
applied to unhappines,
babytalk backward
towards silence.


Translated from the Italian by Michael Sullivan

Click here to read Italian originals of these poems

Bio: Silvia Bortoli was born in Venice and now lives in Naples. She published the collection of poems Tutti i fiumi in 2000 and the novel L’inesperienza in 2003.

Michael Sullivan is the author of the novel Gossip, and works as a translator from Italian to English. His most recent translation in book form was from Michelangelo, Love sonnets to Tommaso de'Cavalieri, published by Peter Owen Publishers, London 1999.

translation index

table of contents