Un(der)known Writers: Helle Busacca

image (via)

Helle Busacca was born in Sicily in 1915, raised in Milan and died in Florence in 1996. She taught in various high schools throughout Italy and became known as a poet during her lifetime. She held close associations with many other artists, notably Eugenio Montale, who once called her “a sullen little bird,” in his 1956 workFarfalle di Dinard. Her brother Aldo’s life in American academy and his subsequent suicide in 1965 left a deep impression on her work. Many of her poems are filled with an aching nostalgia of a world she seems to have never experienced.


Aldo I am sending you a letter
like when you were in America
only that now it is a letter from nothing
to nothing.
Or to everything.  I have to tell you
it is an October that feels like November
or worse, on the terrace in front of me
everything still red under an ocean of black
interwoven silver rivers
on Fiesole.
But, now, Tina, who comes
from Australia, says: “do you think maybe
that he is better off dead,
and it would be worse if he were here?”

So I am sending you a greeting
a hello from one silence to another
in front of these clouds from year zero
and the chrysanthemums shiver
the clematis shakes in all of its arabesques
I hope that in the astral fields
the begonias don’t drown from rain as
it falls as they do here.

Translation by Allison Grimaldi Donahue, 2011. 

The poem in its original Italian:


Aldo ti mando una lettera
come quando eri in America
solo che ora è dal nulla
al nulla.
O al tutto.  Ti devo dire
che è un ottobre come novembre
o peggio, sul terrazzo davanti a me
tutto ancora di rose sotto un oceano di nero
damaschinato di fulmini
su fiesole.
Però, ora, tina, che viene
dall’australia, dice: “e se potesse essere
che lui ora ch’è morto stia bene,
e che starebbe male se fosse qui?”

Allora ti mando un saluto
un saluto da un silenzio a un silenzio
davanti a queste nuvole da anno zero
e i crisantemi rabbrividiscono
la clematide scrolla tutti i suoi rabeschi
io spero che nei campi astrali
le begonie non affoghino di pioggia come qui.