from The Dogs of the Chott el-Jerid
Translated by Natalia Nebel
While I crossed the Chott el-Jerid saline depression, in the Sandgrouse paradoxus’ beating of wings, we gathered the dogs at the edge of the road and encircled them with clubs and stones. Sensing what is about to happen males and females snarl, mothers close to the little ones, hair standing up straight. We bring down the first club blow and smash the muzzle against fangs broken young.
How much blood they have inside, they hurl themselves backwards, there isn’t room, falling once more on the infuriated mothers, crazed, they cry over the little ones – these last under cadavers, some suffocated by cadavers, by the dogs, others pressed to the ground. There we finished off the terrorized and blind one who tried to escape we lifted with a single hand and flung at the speed of the throw – a dry sound, an explosion of bones – against the pavement, to shatter the extremely soft skull, in that whimper which no longer already is no more.
After that we gathered up the carcasses, one or two or three in a single hand, depending on size. We made punctures in the neck to drain the bodies of blood we wanted to return, in this way, to the sand. The problem of the salt crust that covers the ground, closing the pores, presented itself. We created pits of blood immediately dry and black against the dazzling red, the ruby, the azure blue, the goldenrod, the cadmium, the aquamarine of the salt. Pain touched us while we inflicted it on the dogs. Not the cold bodies of death but the warm lagoon, liquid soft evaporated, of the cadavers at 60 degrees black in the light.
(Hellhounds on my trail
always at my heels
don’t give a moment of breath.
Hellhounds on my trail
at my heels always
don’t ever let me breathe.
How much more do I have to walk
to shake off these hellhounds
come from hell to seize me.
How much more walking
away from these hellhounds hunting me
to drag me down with them to hell.)
After that we made an incision in the belly of the beasts, digging out the viscera and the reproductive system. Green and golden filaments bubbled out, bladders swollen with dark liquid we removed.
After that we remained in the desert. At the beginning of the evening we were permeated with dark odors, we wandered round the camp forcing ourselves to its borders but never leaving and we looked one another in the eye, we avoided one another, close and far from the great fires lit for the night, according to how each of us had experienced the thermal excursion.
With our thoughts returned to the saline earth out of which we had come, canine, mixed, minute, alive, silica, bent, driven, diminished, worn out, we waited for the days to end – those alizarin, indigo, aquamarine and goldenrod days.
The angular and broken sky rained down towards the Milky Way like a willow praying for the wind to stop, like me to you.
They are moments of love – passing
without voice to speak them, without peace
Andrea Raos (Italy, b. 1968) has published Discendere il fiume calmo, in Poesia contemporanea. Quinto quaderno italiano (ed. by F. Buffoni, Milan, Crocetti, 1996), Aspettami, dice. Poesie 1992-2002 (Rome, Pieraldo, 2003), Luna velata (Marseille, CipM – Les Comptoirs de la Nouvelle B. S., 2003), Le api migratori (Salerno, Oèdipus, 2007), Prosa in prosa (Firenze, Le Lettere, 2009 – collective work) and I cani dello Chott el-Jerid (Milan, Arcipelago, 2010). He has a Ph.D. in classical Japanese poetry and has translated various Japanese, American and French poets. Some of his poems, translated into English by Kathleen Fraser, have been published in “The New Review of Literature” (vol. 5 no. 2 / Spring 2008) and in “Aufgabe” (no. 7, 2008). Others, translated in part by Sarah Riggs and in part by Abe Casper, can be read here http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poet/item/3540/24/Andrea-Raos.