Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Fabio Pusterla

STORIES OF THE ARMADILLO

Good morning, says the armadillo to a street sweeper. Did you happen 
to see an opossum go by?
The man raises his broom towards the north, where a cloud
hovers over the desert like a great mountain. The armadillo
thanks him and sets off against the wind.


*


Armor on his back and helmet on his head: thus he goes on
with his shortsightedness and his delicious, protected
flesh. He goes on because he goes on,
because one must go, because the world
is large, time is short. Then the smell
of certain flowers, really delicious.


*


The armadillo sings softly along the way.
Nobody listens to him.
It’s a pity: if someone listened
we would know what he sings about
this brave little animal. Maybe
we would start walking too.


*


Now the armadillo is thirsty: he’s in the middle of the desert.
He’s still following the tracks of the opossum, but the desert
does not keep tracks. So he follows
certain darker lines along the ground and arrives
in front of an army tank left in the middle of nowhere.
Hello, says the armadillo to the tank.
But it doesn’t answer.





If the tank could think,
maybe it would be surprised. Instead it is empty,
rusty and dusty. But the armadillo is stubborn.
You are all grown up, he says. But you don’t speak, you don’t say hi.
Must I die of thirst in front of an ill-mannered tank?
Luckily, from the dreariness of the cannon
a little mouse slowly emerges.
Never mind him, he says. This guy’s a nerd.
Come inside, I’ll get you something.
And the armadillo thanks him.


*


If necessary
the armadillo can dig for hours:
long burrows, dark damp areas where he can wait
for happier times, rain, ages in which hope
is not entirely impossible, after all. Even if it’s a long wait,
he passes the time sleeping.
And when the moon rises he reads Cervantes.


*


In an almost northern state they passed a law
on armadillos: it is forbidden to own one.
You may own
cars, costumed slaves, guns, but armadillos,
oh no. It is an interesting law,
the armadillo thinks. And stays a while
in that farsighted
state.


*


Sometimes, in his dreams, he thinks he sees them:
packs of pumas, cougars, other strong animals
whose names he does not know. Columns of trailer trucks,
thick wheels, deeply ribbed, wildlife
unaware of an immense extinction
Predators, desperadoes, refugees,
all in single file heading in the same direction, all
equally enthusiastic.
Then he wakes up and thinks.


*


One says “the armadillo” (he’s thinking now). But actually
the armadillo is an abstract concept: a species
or anyway a category. I am not
the armadillo, I am an armadillo, and I don’t know anything
of what I’m really doing. My future
is modest: a few insects, snails,
perhaps some children: four,
one for each cardinal point.
Yet my vague steps
are going somewhere, these burrows I dig
will be used by others too, with a little luck. Space
will preserve some trace of my daydreaming
against the tide. Thus the armadillo, the idea
of armadillo, guides me, and I guide it, I lead it,
in my own small way, towards the times to come and the frozen
mountains, and the great lakes.


*


When he polishes his scales, he spruces up,
the armadillo remembers the unlikely character
of an uncertain Italian ancestor of his:
the one that was exhibited
along with a unicorn, a harbor seal
and certain skinned crocodiles,
by a Northern-Italian nobleman along with the remains
of his enemies, first killed then mummified.
It seems there was also a dragon with seven heads: one is not surprised at
the shrewdness of the powerful and the pride
of that collectionist. But how did
an armadillo ever end up
in the swamps of the Gonzagas in the 13th century? A legend,
no doubt, or perhaps a later
acquisition. It follows:
that the charango is preferable to the gallery of horrors
(worst case, it is still music, not nightmares); that snakes
have always existed; that an armadillo, like all rebels,
must be very careful.


*


What he likes: the water, the wind
if not too strong, the woods, the magnificent grass
when damp from the night and heralding dawn,
the smell of mushrooms and certain delicate
insects. Even in the city you find some places that aren’t bad at all:
alleys, pipes, sometimes basements. And no pumas.
He also venerates the peaceful
resilience of the opossum: the vulnerable one.


*


One can say: harnessed, crawler tractor, solitary,
toothless, coward, slow poke,
the one who can’t jump, who doesn’t turn around,
wormeater, antlicker, thief,
refugee, big mole that goes round in circles,
late-night reveler, night stalker, the strong-nailed;
the one who enjoys tripping up horses
who cripples them and bursts his scales
laughing in his foul-smelling hole.
One can damn him, search at night
with sharpened stakes, clubs, dog teeth.
One can hire drunken natives
or armies of mosquitoes to hunt for him.
The armadillo takes no notice.


*


It is no use to pull him by the tail:
as one knows from experience the armadillo does not give in
so easily. And after all it took
some fifty million years or so, an unexpected
accident and a good deal of luck:
an enterprising sailor,
a storm, a shipwreck in a terrible bay,
an unknown land full of flowers to come to shore on.
He is too experienced to be afraid or lose heart.
The way was long, the voyage perilous.
Now he proceeds, one step after the other. Almost cheerful.


*


Among the other things he brought back from the most remote
ages was leprosy. He knows it, he knows
the horror, the humility of corroded flesh,
and how frail the armor of pride is.
So he greets each flower he meets, gently,
and to the desolate he brings dry butterflies, small presents.


*


One weak spot, certainly: tickling. Under his tail,
where his belly spreads out softly, and the age-old joys have their lair,
it takes little, a soft feather or a caress,
plume, monkshood tips. At once a fit of laughing breaks out
unstoppable. The armadillo laughs as hands
drag it backwards towards death or prison, towards the fateful
club that awaits him. Yet he laughs,
and it is not just the tickling. To think
of all this hate, the violence, the greed,
and all those things that are ultimately ridiculous, lost
in the nothingness of ages, little chips of history
in the lorica of histories that hunger or force weave for themselves,
the same always, always forgettable, useless
ferruginous atrocities. When he laughs likes this, the armadillo does not
arouse fear, exactly: bewilderment, perhaps, in the eyes of those
who insist, grow passionate. A gradual loss of appetite, and suddenly
a sort of emptiness in one’s stomach: mediocre
says a resigned biology, without dreams, 
a medicinal, sordid politics
the conscience laughs about it, darkly,
and those who watch the scene become somber, troubled,
It is not a pretty scene,
an armadillo who dies laughing
while he slips. Actually,
with that strange cheerfulness prey have,
in those instants he looks into the eyes
of the glyptodont, and speaks to him,
as one might sometime speak to a friend or brother lost,
yet always present,
and amusing.

STORIE DELL’ARMADILLO

STORIE DELL’ARMADILLO

Buongiorno, dice l’armadillo a un netturbino. Per caso
ha visto passare di qui un opossum?
L’uomo alza la scopa verso nord, dove una nube
fluttua sopra i deserti come una grande montagna. L’armadillo
ringrazia e s’incammina controvento.


*


Addosso la corazza e l’elmo in testa: così va
con la sua vista scarsa e le sue carni
deliziose e protette. Va perché va,
perché bisogna andare, perché il mondo
è grande, il tempo breve. Poi il profumo
di certi fiori, davvero delizioso.


*


L’armadillo canticchia sul cammino.
Non lo ascolta nessuno.
È un peccato: se qualcuno lo sentisse
potremmo sapere cosa canta
questo piccolo animale coraggioso. Magari
ci metteremmo in cammino anche noi.


*


Adesso l’armadillo ha sete: è in mezzo al deserto.
Segue ancora le tracce dell’opossum, ma il deserto
non conserva le tracce. Allora segue
certe linee più scure sul terreno e così arriva
davanti a un carro armato rimasto lì nel nulla.
Salve, dice l’armadillo al carro armato.
Ma quello resta zitto.





Se il carro armato potesse pensare,
forse sarebbe stupito. Invece è vuoto,
arrugginito e impolverato. Ma l’armadillo è cocciuto.
Lei è grande e grosso, gli dice. Ma non parla, non saluta.
Dovrò morire di sete davanti a un maleducato?
Per fortuna dalla mestizia del cannone
sbuca adagio un topino.
Non badarci, gli fa. Questo è un disadattato.
Vieni dentro, ti offro qualcosa.
E l’armadillo ringrazia.


*


Quando è necessario
l’armadillo può scavare per ore:
lunghe tane, zone umide e buie dove aspettare
tempi migliori, piogge, epoche in cui la speranza
non è poi del tutto impossibile. L’attesa
sia pure lunga, lui la inganna dormendo.
E quando sorge la luna legge Cervantes.


*


In uno stato quasi del nord hanno fatto una legge
sugli armadilli: è vietato possederne.
Si possono possedere
automobili, schiavi in maschera, fucili, ma armadilli
proprio no. È una legge interessante,
pensa l’armadillo. E si ferma un po’
in quello stato
così lungimirante.


*


Certe volte, in sogno, gli sembra di vederli:
branchi di puma, giaguari, altri animali forti
di cui non sa il nome. Colonne di autotreni,
ruote larghe, dentate, selvaggina
ignara di un’estinzione immensa.
Predatori, disperati, fuggiaschi,
tutti in fila nella stessa direzione, tutti
ugualmente entusiasti.
Allora si sveglia e pensa.


*


Uno dice: l’armadillo (adesso sta pensando). Ma in effetti
l’armadillo è un concetto teorico: una specie
o comunque una categoria. Io non sono
l’armadillo, sono un armadillo, e non so nulla
di quello che davvero sto facendo. Il mio futuro
è modesto: qualche insetto, lumache,
magari dei figli: quattro,
uno per ogni punto cardinale.
Eppure i miei passi vaghi
vanno da qualche parte, queste tane che scavo
serviranno anche ad altri, con un po’ di fortuna. Lo spazio
serberà qualche traccia del mio fantasticare
controcorrente. Così l’armadillo, l’idea
di armadillo, mi guida, e io guido lei, io la conduco
nel mio piccolo verso i tempi a venire e le montagne
gelate, e i grandi laghi.


*


Quando si lucida le scaglie, si fa bello,
l’armadillo ripensa alla figura improbabile
di un incerto suo antenato italiano:
quello che venne esposto
insieme a un unicorno, a un vitello marino
e a certi coccodrilli scorticati
da un signore padano insieme ai resti
dei nemici prima uccisi e poi mummificati.
Pare ci fosse anche un drago a sette teste: non stupisce
l’astuzia dei potenti, né l’orgoglio
di quel collezionista. Ma da dove
poteva mai venire un armadillo
nel Trecento alla palude dei Gonzaga? Una leggenda,
senz’altro, o forse un’acquisizione
posteriore. Ne discende:
che alla bacheca dell’orrore è preferibile il charango
(mal che vada, è pur musica, non incubi); che i serpenti
sono sempre esistiti; che un armadillo, come ogni ribelle,
deve fare molta attenzione.


*


Quello che gli piace: l’acqua, il vento
se non è troppo forte, i boschi, l’erba magnifica
quando è umida di notte e annuncia l’alba,
l’odore di funghi e certi insetti
delicati. Anche in città ci sono posti mica male:
vicoli, tubi, cantine qualche volta. E nessun puma.
Venera inoltre la pacifica
tenacia dell’opossum: l’indifeso.


*


Si può dire: il bardato, il cingolato, il solitario,
lo sdentato, il pavido, il lento,
quello che non può saltare, che non si gira,
il mangiavermi, il leccaformiche, il ladro,
il fuggiasco, il talpone che gira in tondo,
il tiratardi, il nottambulo, l’unghiaforte;
quello che si diverte a far cadere i cavalli,
li azzoppa e si squassa le scaglie
dal ridere dentro il suo buco graveolente.
Lo si può maledire, cercare di notte
con bastoni appuntiti, o con mazze, denti di cane.
Si possono reclutare indigeni ubriachi
o eserciti di zanzare per dargli la caccia.
L’armadillo non ci bada.


*


È inutile tirarlo per la coda:
come si sa per esperienza l’armadillo non cede
così facilmente. E poi ci sono voluti
forse cinquanta milioni di anni, un imprevisto
casuale e un bel po’ di fortuna:
un marinaio di belle speranze,
una tempesta, un naufragio in un golfo terribile,
una terra fiorita e ignara cui approdare.
Ne ha viste troppe per spaventarsi o perdere coraggio.
È stato lungo il cammino, arduo il viaggio.
Ora procede, un passo dopo l’altro. Quasi allegro.


*


Tra le altre cose che ha riportato su dai tempi
più lontani, anche la lebbra. La conosce, ne sa
l’obbrobrio, l’umiltà delle carni corrose,
e quanto è fragile la corazza dell’orgoglio.
Così saluta ogni fiore che incontra, gentilmente,
e ai desolati porta farfalle secche, piccoli doni.


*


Un punto debole, certo: il solletico. Sotto la coda,
dove molle si snoda il ventre, e le antiche dolcezze si accampano,
basta poco, piuma morbida o carezza,
pennacchio, cima d’aconito. Subito scoppia il riso
irrefrenabile. Ride l’armadillo mentre mani
lo trascinano indietro, verso morte o prigionia, verso il fatidico
bastone che lo attende. Eppure ride,
e non è solo questione di solletico. Pensare
a tutto questo odio, alla violenza, alla brama,
e a ogni cosa in fin dei conti ridicola, perduta
nel nulla delle epoche, scaglietta di storia
nella lorica di storie che la fame o la forza s’intessono,
uguali sempre, sempre dimenticabili, inutili
atrocità ferruginose. Quando ride così, l’armadillo non fa
propriamente paura: sconcerto, forse, negli occhi di chi
si accanisce, s’infervora. Appetito che scema, e improvviso
una specie di vuoto allo stomaco: mediocre
chiama una biologia rassegnata, senza sogni, una politica
medicamentosa, sordida,
la coscienza ne ride, cupamente,
e chi assiste alla scena s’adombra, s’inquieta.
Non è un bello spettacolo,
un armadillo che ride morendo
mentre sdrucciola. In realtà,
con la strana allegria delle prede,
lui guarda in quegli istanti dentro gli occhi
del gliptodonte, e gli parla,
come talvolta si parla a un amico o a un fratello scomparsi,
eppure sempre presenti,
e spiritosi.
Poems
Poems of Fabio Pusterla
Close

STORIES OF THE ARMADILLO

Good morning, says the armadillo to a street sweeper. Did you happen 
to see an opossum go by?
The man raises his broom towards the north, where a cloud
hovers over the desert like a great mountain. The armadillo
thanks him and sets off against the wind.


*


Armor on his back and helmet on his head: thus he goes on
with his shortsightedness and his delicious, protected
flesh. He goes on because he goes on,
because one must go, because the world
is large, time is short. Then the smell
of certain flowers, really delicious.


*


The armadillo sings softly along the way.
Nobody listens to him.
It’s a pity: if someone listened
we would know what he sings about
this brave little animal. Maybe
we would start walking too.


*


Now the armadillo is thirsty: he’s in the middle of the desert.
He’s still following the tracks of the opossum, but the desert
does not keep tracks. So he follows
certain darker lines along the ground and arrives
in front of an army tank left in the middle of nowhere.
Hello, says the armadillo to the tank.
But it doesn’t answer.





If the tank could think,
maybe it would be surprised. Instead it is empty,
rusty and dusty. But the armadillo is stubborn.
You are all grown up, he says. But you don’t speak, you don’t say hi.
Must I die of thirst in front of an ill-mannered tank?
Luckily, from the dreariness of the cannon
a little mouse slowly emerges.
Never mind him, he says. This guy’s a nerd.
Come inside, I’ll get you something.
And the armadillo thanks him.


*


If necessary
the armadillo can dig for hours:
long burrows, dark damp areas where he can wait
for happier times, rain, ages in which hope
is not entirely impossible, after all. Even if it’s a long wait,
he passes the time sleeping.
And when the moon rises he reads Cervantes.


*


In an almost northern state they passed a law
on armadillos: it is forbidden to own one.
You may own
cars, costumed slaves, guns, but armadillos,
oh no. It is an interesting law,
the armadillo thinks. And stays a while
in that farsighted
state.


*


Sometimes, in his dreams, he thinks he sees them:
packs of pumas, cougars, other strong animals
whose names he does not know. Columns of trailer trucks,
thick wheels, deeply ribbed, wildlife
unaware of an immense extinction
Predators, desperadoes, refugees,
all in single file heading in the same direction, all
equally enthusiastic.
Then he wakes up and thinks.


*


One says “the armadillo” (he’s thinking now). But actually
the armadillo is an abstract concept: a species
or anyway a category. I am not
the armadillo, I am an armadillo, and I don’t know anything
of what I’m really doing. My future
is modest: a few insects, snails,
perhaps some children: four,
one for each cardinal point.
Yet my vague steps
are going somewhere, these burrows I dig
will be used by others too, with a little luck. Space
will preserve some trace of my daydreaming
against the tide. Thus the armadillo, the idea
of armadillo, guides me, and I guide it, I lead it,
in my own small way, towards the times to come and the frozen
mountains, and the great lakes.


*


When he polishes his scales, he spruces up,
the armadillo remembers the unlikely character
of an uncertain Italian ancestor of his:
the one that was exhibited
along with a unicorn, a harbor seal
and certain skinned crocodiles,
by a Northern-Italian nobleman along with the remains
of his enemies, first killed then mummified.
It seems there was also a dragon with seven heads: one is not surprised at
the shrewdness of the powerful and the pride
of that collectionist. But how did
an armadillo ever end up
in the swamps of the Gonzagas in the 13th century? A legend,
no doubt, or perhaps a later
acquisition. It follows:
that the charango is preferable to the gallery of horrors
(worst case, it is still music, not nightmares); that snakes
have always existed; that an armadillo, like all rebels,
must be very careful.


*


What he likes: the water, the wind
if not too strong, the woods, the magnificent grass
when damp from the night and heralding dawn,
the smell of mushrooms and certain delicate
insects. Even in the city you find some places that aren’t bad at all:
alleys, pipes, sometimes basements. And no pumas.
He also venerates the peaceful
resilience of the opossum: the vulnerable one.


*


One can say: harnessed, crawler tractor, solitary,
toothless, coward, slow poke,
the one who can’t jump, who doesn’t turn around,
wormeater, antlicker, thief,
refugee, big mole that goes round in circles,
late-night reveler, night stalker, the strong-nailed;
the one who enjoys tripping up horses
who cripples them and bursts his scales
laughing in his foul-smelling hole.
One can damn him, search at night
with sharpened stakes, clubs, dog teeth.
One can hire drunken natives
or armies of mosquitoes to hunt for him.
The armadillo takes no notice.


*


It is no use to pull him by the tail:
as one knows from experience the armadillo does not give in
so easily. And after all it took
some fifty million years or so, an unexpected
accident and a good deal of luck:
an enterprising sailor,
a storm, a shipwreck in a terrible bay,
an unknown land full of flowers to come to shore on.
He is too experienced to be afraid or lose heart.
The way was long, the voyage perilous.
Now he proceeds, one step after the other. Almost cheerful.


*


Among the other things he brought back from the most remote
ages was leprosy. He knows it, he knows
the horror, the humility of corroded flesh,
and how frail the armor of pride is.
So he greets each flower he meets, gently,
and to the desolate he brings dry butterflies, small presents.


*


One weak spot, certainly: tickling. Under his tail,
where his belly spreads out softly, and the age-old joys have their lair,
it takes little, a soft feather or a caress,
plume, monkshood tips. At once a fit of laughing breaks out
unstoppable. The armadillo laughs as hands
drag it backwards towards death or prison, towards the fateful
club that awaits him. Yet he laughs,
and it is not just the tickling. To think
of all this hate, the violence, the greed,
and all those things that are ultimately ridiculous, lost
in the nothingness of ages, little chips of history
in the lorica of histories that hunger or force weave for themselves,
the same always, always forgettable, useless
ferruginous atrocities. When he laughs likes this, the armadillo does not
arouse fear, exactly: bewilderment, perhaps, in the eyes of those
who insist, grow passionate. A gradual loss of appetite, and suddenly
a sort of emptiness in one’s stomach: mediocre
says a resigned biology, without dreams, 
a medicinal, sordid politics
the conscience laughs about it, darkly,
and those who watch the scene become somber, troubled,
It is not a pretty scene,
an armadillo who dies laughing
while he slips. Actually,
with that strange cheerfulness prey have,
in those instants he looks into the eyes
of the glyptodont, and speaks to him,
as one might sometime speak to a friend or brother lost,
yet always present,
and amusing.

STORIES OF THE ARMADILLO

Good morning, says the armadillo to a street sweeper. Did you happen 
to see an opossum go by?
The man raises his broom towards the north, where a cloud
hovers over the desert like a great mountain. The armadillo
thanks him and sets off against the wind.


*


Armor on his back and helmet on his head: thus he goes on
with his shortsightedness and his delicious, protected
flesh. He goes on because he goes on,
because one must go, because the world
is large, time is short. Then the smell
of certain flowers, really delicious.


*


The armadillo sings softly along the way.
Nobody listens to him.
It’s a pity: if someone listened
we would know what he sings about
this brave little animal. Maybe
we would start walking too.


*


Now the armadillo is thirsty: he’s in the middle of the desert.
He’s still following the tracks of the opossum, but the desert
does not keep tracks. So he follows
certain darker lines along the ground and arrives
in front of an army tank left in the middle of nowhere.
Hello, says the armadillo to the tank.
But it doesn’t answer.





If the tank could think,
maybe it would be surprised. Instead it is empty,
rusty and dusty. But the armadillo is stubborn.
You are all grown up, he says. But you don’t speak, you don’t say hi.
Must I die of thirst in front of an ill-mannered tank?
Luckily, from the dreariness of the cannon
a little mouse slowly emerges.
Never mind him, he says. This guy’s a nerd.
Come inside, I’ll get you something.
And the armadillo thanks him.


*


If necessary
the armadillo can dig for hours:
long burrows, dark damp areas where he can wait
for happier times, rain, ages in which hope
is not entirely impossible, after all. Even if it’s a long wait,
he passes the time sleeping.
And when the moon rises he reads Cervantes.


*


In an almost northern state they passed a law
on armadillos: it is forbidden to own one.
You may own
cars, costumed slaves, guns, but armadillos,
oh no. It is an interesting law,
the armadillo thinks. And stays a while
in that farsighted
state.


*


Sometimes, in his dreams, he thinks he sees them:
packs of pumas, cougars, other strong animals
whose names he does not know. Columns of trailer trucks,
thick wheels, deeply ribbed, wildlife
unaware of an immense extinction
Predators, desperadoes, refugees,
all in single file heading in the same direction, all
equally enthusiastic.
Then he wakes up and thinks.


*


One says “the armadillo” (he’s thinking now). But actually
the armadillo is an abstract concept: a species
or anyway a category. I am not
the armadillo, I am an armadillo, and I don’t know anything
of what I’m really doing. My future
is modest: a few insects, snails,
perhaps some children: four,
one for each cardinal point.
Yet my vague steps
are going somewhere, these burrows I dig
will be used by others too, with a little luck. Space
will preserve some trace of my daydreaming
against the tide. Thus the armadillo, the idea
of armadillo, guides me, and I guide it, I lead it,
in my own small way, towards the times to come and the frozen
mountains, and the great lakes.


*


When he polishes his scales, he spruces up,
the armadillo remembers the unlikely character
of an uncertain Italian ancestor of his:
the one that was exhibited
along with a unicorn, a harbor seal
and certain skinned crocodiles,
by a Northern-Italian nobleman along with the remains
of his enemies, first killed then mummified.
It seems there was also a dragon with seven heads: one is not surprised at
the shrewdness of the powerful and the pride
of that collectionist. But how did
an armadillo ever end up
in the swamps of the Gonzagas in the 13th century? A legend,
no doubt, or perhaps a later
acquisition. It follows:
that the charango is preferable to the gallery of horrors
(worst case, it is still music, not nightmares); that snakes
have always existed; that an armadillo, like all rebels,
must be very careful.


*


What he likes: the water, the wind
if not too strong, the woods, the magnificent grass
when damp from the night and heralding dawn,
the smell of mushrooms and certain delicate
insects. Even in the city you find some places that aren’t bad at all:
alleys, pipes, sometimes basements. And no pumas.
He also venerates the peaceful
resilience of the opossum: the vulnerable one.


*


One can say: harnessed, crawler tractor, solitary,
toothless, coward, slow poke,
the one who can’t jump, who doesn’t turn around,
wormeater, antlicker, thief,
refugee, big mole that goes round in circles,
late-night reveler, night stalker, the strong-nailed;
the one who enjoys tripping up horses
who cripples them and bursts his scales
laughing in his foul-smelling hole.
One can damn him, search at night
with sharpened stakes, clubs, dog teeth.
One can hire drunken natives
or armies of mosquitoes to hunt for him.
The armadillo takes no notice.


*


It is no use to pull him by the tail:
as one knows from experience the armadillo does not give in
so easily. And after all it took
some fifty million years or so, an unexpected
accident and a good deal of luck:
an enterprising sailor,
a storm, a shipwreck in a terrible bay,
an unknown land full of flowers to come to shore on.
He is too experienced to be afraid or lose heart.
The way was long, the voyage perilous.
Now he proceeds, one step after the other. Almost cheerful.


*


Among the other things he brought back from the most remote
ages was leprosy. He knows it, he knows
the horror, the humility of corroded flesh,
and how frail the armor of pride is.
So he greets each flower he meets, gently,
and to the desolate he brings dry butterflies, small presents.


*


One weak spot, certainly: tickling. Under his tail,
where his belly spreads out softly, and the age-old joys have their lair,
it takes little, a soft feather or a caress,
plume, monkshood tips. At once a fit of laughing breaks out
unstoppable. The armadillo laughs as hands
drag it backwards towards death or prison, towards the fateful
club that awaits him. Yet he laughs,
and it is not just the tickling. To think
of all this hate, the violence, the greed,
and all those things that are ultimately ridiculous, lost
in the nothingness of ages, little chips of history
in the lorica of histories that hunger or force weave for themselves,
the same always, always forgettable, useless
ferruginous atrocities. When he laughs likes this, the armadillo does not
arouse fear, exactly: bewilderment, perhaps, in the eyes of those
who insist, grow passionate. A gradual loss of appetite, and suddenly
a sort of emptiness in one’s stomach: mediocre
says a resigned biology, without dreams, 
a medicinal, sordid politics
the conscience laughs about it, darkly,
and those who watch the scene become somber, troubled,
It is not a pretty scene,
an armadillo who dies laughing
while he slips. Actually,
with that strange cheerfulness prey have,
in those instants he looks into the eyes
of the glyptodont, and speaks to him,
as one might sometime speak to a friend or brother lost,
yet always present,
and amusing.
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère