Mudlark Poster No. 123 (2015)

Five Poems with Pasolini
by Sarah Wetzel

These poems are from a series of poems written in response to the life and work of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the controversial Italian writer, artist, and filmmaker, who was murdered in 1975.

Four Scenes Imagined with Pier Paolo Pasolini
Scene 1: The Remains in the Mirror
Scene 2: What the Blind See Through Windows
Scene 3: The Impossibility of Late-Night TV
Scene 4: Cliffhanger to Next Season
The Evidence Against Pasolini, the Poet

Four Scenes Imagined with Pier Paolo Pasolini

Scene 1: The Remains in the Mirror
In the smallest room of the Hotel Trastevere, Pier Paolo 
is brushing my hair. Gently he strokes 
the strands, careful not to yank through the tangles. 

His eyes travel over us in the mirror 
and I can tell by the set of his thinned lips he’s imagining 
the film’s final scene. Whether I live or die.

His hands tilt my head to the left, 
to the right; he tucks the hair’s smoothed pieces 
behind my naked ears. And it’s his tenderness

that makes me believe there’s a script
to at least some of this; that in one version, the past
lays its knife down and into our laps.

I wrap my fingers around his wrist, move his hand 
to my bared boyish breasts. So that I can re-enact 
the start of my grief. He re-enact his.

Before Rome. Before Italy. Before the first boy 
undressed and left. To look into the mirror, 
in Pier’s face, as in the face of another, to see

the discarded dress, drawers open
and emptied, the hairbrush set down. The camera 
begins rolling.
                              Pier Paolo rewriting the lines.

Scene 2: What the Blind See Through Windows
There is a smell of toast burning
and warm figs, sour cherry jam. I hear plates gently
being set down. And cutlery.
Pier Paolo is fixing us breakfast.

For a long time I’ve lain in this earthen bed, 
the sheets creased as if still holding
another body. On the pillow, a single strand 
of dark hair.

Where am I? I don’t recognize the hours 
until the form of the window appears 
like an oncoming train, slowly, then all over me 
at once. The dawn glow becoming

the spring I arrived
                                            when even days seemed 
like nights and the white fog of sleep 
brought only yearning for more sleep.

It was then you told me
people born blind don’t dream
                                                         in pictures
but in music and touch. The windows they dream
aren’t what we call windows.

I see now
I was terrified to let your hands take me. I feared 
I’d forget it was you. Every time I felt pleasure, 
I hurt myself.

Pier Paolo holds out a chair, hands
me a napkin. He butters a piece of burnt toast,
turns up the radio so that we hear
                                                                 Maria Callas singing 

Isolde’s final aria which at once turns us
blood-red. As Isolde’s lover rises 
and then again dies, Pier Paolo walks to the window, 
opens it wide.

Scene 3: The Impossibility of Late-Night TV
It’s 4AM and Pier Paolo is weeping
and so I weep. We cry, but not really together. Each
for himself, for herself. We hug our regret 
like bags of ice in winter.
                                               It is, I think, 
still very far from morning.

The television is tuned to the Nature Channel, 
where we watch a mother fox turn 
in circles, her belly swollen with milk that nothing 
can drink.
                   She’d consumed her entire litter.

And inside the room, it’s beginning 
to rain.
               O bella ragazza della vita mia, Pier says in my ear. 
O little drunk drop. 

And the sound of the rain in my head 
could be the soundtrack
of the fox on TV 
just like the shape of words on a page sometimes seems
something else—
		                  a string, a string’s shadow, the eye 
that turns to unravel 
the way by which it arrived. 

How copious I imagine 
the vixen’s sorrow. How vast her desire 
to undo the last act. 
			                       I know it’s impossible. 
But how can we say,
nothing is possible, even now?

Scene 4: Cliffhanger to Next Season
It’s morning again.
Though not one of the hours tinged
with daybreak.
                           It’s an hour stolen from sleep, 
still full of lost souls and underground parking.

In this scene, I wake in the basement
of a department store. Naked mannequins
and last season’s suits.
                                           There is the sound of men 
running above.

I don’t understand why but I know
to surrender means blood.

Then, Pier’s voice, where have you looked?
He wants me to hear.
I know he hopes he’ll find me

and, as Camus put it,
                                        I’ll fall in love 
if only to provide an alibi 
for all the random despair 
                                                        I’m going to feel anyway.

He turns on the light, sensing my fear
of dark places. 
I say his name, Pier Paolo.
                                          The first blow 
is always the most painful.

The Evidence Against Pasolini, the Poet

All roads leading to Rome were fast and black. 
The signs we sped by warned of falling rock, 
but we threw off our scarves, our hats, we let the air 

push its hands through our hair, the sun 
clap our cheeks. In the glove compartment, a gun, 
which Pasolini let me hold in both hands 

testing the trigger’s reflex. In the trunk, 
the body of Eugenio Montale. His poetry, too bourgeois
for my taste, Pasolini said, with a grimace. 

Were we merry, were we furious? Neither
was sufficient reason for how we were driving—
the pines ripped wild by our storms

and the muffled horns of the cars we sometimes
forced off the road. Between my knees,
the black spider jumped. All Montale’s pleas,

muted and difficult to parse, had proved too late.
In the car, we argued about spaghetti westerns
and where best to bury the body.

Pasolini pretended not to notice that sometimes 
I pointed the gun at him. I pretended that just because
there’s a gun in a poem, it doesn’t have to go off.

It was then the story turned real. 
We stopped for gas, which is when the attendant 
accused Pasolini of robbing him. Never mind

he didn’t get out of the car. Never mind, the attendant
sold the story for money. There was the gun in hand
and in the trunk, the still-warm corpse of Montale.

Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the 2013 AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and will be published by Red Hen Press, and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published by Anhinga Press in 2010. “After job-hopping across Europe and the Americas,” she currently teaches literature at The American University of Rome. However, she says, “I still spend a lot of time writing on planes, dividing time between Manhattan, Rome, and Tel Aviv, Israel.” Wetzel holds an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, an MBA from Berkeley, and she completed an MFA in Creative Writing at Bennington College in January 2009. You can find more of her work at

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