Caulonian Suite: IV. Venerdi Santo / Good Friday

Venerdi Santo,
Cristo morirà ancora
come ha fatto ogni anno
poichè Dio sa quando.*


They held a New Orleans Funeral for Jesus:
Woodwinds, brass and the big bass drum.
After awhile the rain began to come;
Parishioners popped up their umbrellas,
Madonna was sacked to protect the stars
Spangling perfect electrified hair that
Should have been disheveled in grief.

Christ: unable to awaken, trapped in an opiate nightmare,
Pallid, couch-ridden, sick with flowers,
Widow-borne through the streets on a lacy bier.

Mary: politely dolorosa, her face more composed than that
Of the old mother dressed in black
Hanging out of the window to watch Her pass,
Baptizing the parading crowd with tears
Thrown out like old wash water.

What is left clean and what is soiled?

The sorrow of sin shifts from house to street
To be tracked back in on the slack-shod feet
Of grandchildren, dogs and beggared questions,
Salved in the last moment with words and oil:

quidquid deliquisti / in all that you have failed.

*Good Friday,
Christ will die again
As he’s done every year
Since God knows when.

Calabrian Chronicles: Translations of poetry by Lucia d’Amato

I found these poems by chance in a book amongst a pile of books and papers on a side table in an efficency apartment loaned to us in Caulonia (RC). I had never heard of Lucia d’Amato and, unfortunately, I don’t think you will find her book “Sostenere il sogno” anywhere other than this table, next to its clot of dusty papers. These few poems express the dense and lovely reflections of what I saw everyday that late winter and early spring in Caulonia Superiore.
casa a piazza della carmine caulonia


Caldi passatempi nell'aria,
E un vago color mattone
nel cuore,
parla di case abitate.
Un sonno silenzioso.
L'inverno passa.


Warm passtimes in the air
and a vague brick colour
in the heart,
speaks of inhabited habitations.
A silent sleep.
Wintertime passes.

view towards the sea from caulonia superioreLE PRIME ORE D’UN POMERIGGIO

Le prime ore
d'un pomeriggio brullo,
color di terra, di sabbia, e d'oro,
e la solennità
dei gochi più sereni
del tempo.
Dall'autunno al'inverno
andando verso l'estate,
come un grosso pacco
la campagna si svolge.
Un gregge sta,
come una nevicata sporca
Da un rotolio di nuvole
sguscia il sole.


The first hours
of a bare afternoon,
Colour of earth, of sand,
and of gold,
and the solomnity
of weather's more serene games.
From Autumn to Winter
now tending towards summer,
the countryside unwraps herself
like a fat package.
A flock stands
like dirty snow fallen
from a roll of clouds
that just slip-shelled the sun.
nota bene: Original poems in Italian by Calabrian poet Lucia D’Amato as published in “Sostenere il Sogno”. Translations in English copyright 2009 Bonnie M. McClellan.

Caulonian Suite: III. Piazza della Carmine / The Two Times



Unable to traverse the swallow’s path
Or tread roof tiles as the agile cat,
upon his brothers’ labouring backs
A polychrome Christ will make a rough pilgrimage of His own;
Pillar bound, to that church above from this one below.

Square-shouldered, tow-haired nine-year old will run and clap
His acolyte’s bell laughingly at black curls that lap
The tender nape of his fellow impenitent in Mary’s blue.
And so this honour guard will hew
four hundred years of progress’ path
Pelligrinago from first to last,
Across the stuck in stones.


Piazza della carmine is desirous of tumbling towards the sea.
Boys gyre round parked cars in this town the Greeks begot.
A truck full of music winds lamenting through the streets;
Calling forth ancient Eves to buy their compassionate widow’s tot
Of what, to Adam’s sweaty brow, this fallen earth bequeaths.

poem and photo copyright Bonnie McClellan 2011 all rights reserved

This poem is the third in a suite of poems written about 24 hours in Caulonia Superiore.

Caulonian Suite: II. Caulonia Supriore

As the end of March approaches, I think of southern Italy – Calabria – the tiny town of Caulonia Superiore where we spent the weeks leading up to Easter and watched it unfold around us.

Bonnie McClellan-Broussard


for Matthew

The sky roils;

swallows knit webbed gyres

among the baroque sag of rooftops.

Across the way they’re fixing one;

new russet barrel tiles sealed over

old timber bones.

I hear a sound like the pounding

Of a battering ram or the cleaving

Of an immense stump

Contrapunted with a loud HUP.

My daughter sleeps with the abandon

of an unfettered shutter swinging in a stiff wind.

A woman in her fifties climbs the stairs

to the house where she and my daughter

were both conceived.

We regard each other with

that part of the eye

which admits an alternate aim.

The pounding stops.

The church bells go off

with the percussive invective

of a fire alarm


They say it’s peculiar to here:

someone sounds the bell

not with the pull of a knotted rope

but with the unlevered force of arms.

This is the…

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Caulonian Suite: I. Coppi in Cotto

Coppi in Cotto
Terracotta Roof Tiles with Lichen

Coppi in Cotto

Cat spelunks the canyon down
picking through lichen broidered tile.
My lover's hands diagram, inform:
           slab after slab of wet clay
           curved across the thigh to pave
           the high square meteres of the sparrows' way.

This mute arc reiterates the form
of what coulted femeur's slack desire?
Makers now in abandoned bone box stacked
Shout their names marked in black
at dull, dun, desanctified walls.

Amnesiac tiles cup together, deaf above
foxed timbers dressed in sixty years of lime.
They uphold each others' weight,

           Sweet compression.
           As distracted as August lovers
           (lost thigh to sweaty thigh)
           trying to topple not the slender wooden frame
           of a kitchen chair.

Busy, keeping the rain out.

poem and photo copyright Bonnie McClellan 2009
This is the first of a suite of 3 poems that treat 24 hours in Caulonia Superiore
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