Venezia Scalzo Poetry [Italian with English Translations]

By Lily Selthofner

As featured in Venezia Scalzo Screendance

Poem 1:

Prima, c’era acqua.  

Lo spirito viscerale, il vuoto definitivo

Il sangue della madre

Accecante e assordante

il suo polso era il primo orologio

E piango al suo tempo, 

le mie lacrime gocciolano

dal suo grembo

superando le circostanze

First, there was water

The visceral ghost, the ultimate emptiness

The blood of the mother

blinding and deafening

her pulse was the first clock

and I cry to her time, 

my tears dripping from her womb

surpassing circumstance


Poem 2:

Mi chiama Violetto Scalzo

Le mie ossa sono pesci, fatti di punti interrogativi

mia gamba cede, mentre il mio cervello avanza

non so chi sono, da dove vengo, o perché sono qua, adesso.

le risposte risiedono nelle mie spalle curve e nel mio collo allungato, in bilico, 

tra la futilità cosmica e l’onda eterna del movimento immobile

my bones are fish, made of question marks 

my leg caves, as my mind walks onward

I don’t know who I am, where I came from, or why I am here, now.

The answers dwell in my hunched shoulders and craned neck, balanced,

between cosmic futility, and the eternal wave of still movement


Poem 3:

Violenza Scottatura

sono dolore. Sono a piedi nudi sulla sabbia calda, a prendere a pugni l’antico pavimento, erodendo la facciata dell’immortalità.

Sono connessa. Sono una piramide di guerrieri, il mio esercito di antenati marcia dietro di me.

Sono l’amore incondizionato. Sono la nonna pagana più potente, eoni fa.

Sono fiducia. Sono protezione. Io sono le porte che si aprono. Sono l’ombra nell’angolo della stanza.

Per troppo tempo ho avuto paura dei miei aiutanti, dei miei amanti incondizionati.

Ero un bambino, impreparato, cieco al mio stesso potere, reso vittima statua in mondi rigidi.

Parassiti ai miei muscoli, succhiando la mia carne morbida,

desiderando l’amore che ho impastato da vite di dolore.

I am pain. I am bare feet on hot sand, punching ancient pavement, eroding the facade of immortality.

I am connection. I am a pyramid of warriors, my army of ancestors marching behind me. 

I am unconditional love. I am my most powerful pagan grandmother, eons ago.

I am trust. I am protection. I am the doors that open. I am the shadow in the corner of the room.

For too long, I have been afraid of my helpers, my unconditional lovers.

I was a child, unready, blind to my own power, made a statue victim in rigid worlds. 

Parasites to my muscles, sucking my soft flesh, 

longing for the love I kneaded from lifetimes of pain.


Poem 4:

Mi chiama Vasta Serpente

Ho fame, tanta fame. Ho un buco nel cuore, che riempio di serpenti e draghi e pesci.

Un milione di anni fa, battevo il tamburo troppo forte, le mani mi facevano ancora male per aver fatto quel buco nel mio antico cuore. Mi fanno male le dita sui tamburi rotti, il polso spezzato soffocato dalla cenere, le dita che scavano nel buco, alla ricerca di risposte già sbriciolate, marce, dimenticate.

Ogni passo della mia ultima grande danza ci avvicina alla morte, mentre le ossa del mio punto interrogativo si spezzano sotto il peso delle lucertole, dei serpenti e dei pesci nel mio cuore.

I’m hungry, so hungry. I have a hole in my heart that I fill with snakes and dragons and fish.

One million years ago, I beat my drum too hard, my hands still hurt from punching that hole in my ancient heart. My fingers ache on broken drums, broken pulse smothered in ashes, fingers digging in the hole, searching for answers already crumbled, rotten, forgotten.

Every step of my last great dance marches us closer to death, as my question mark bones break under the weight of the snakes and fish in my heart.


Poem 5:

Mi chiama Vantaggia Sinistra

Io sono il serpente, il pesce, il drago dell’amore che vive nel mio cuore, nove dimensioni più piccole e più alte di te o di me.

Sono un serpente: spesso, lungo e viscido, con segreti dietro ogni scaglia.

Sono una vittima, un povero ragazzo di una cattiva famiglia. Questa volta, la mia spina dorsale è il punto interrogativo, la sofferenza viscidi di decadenza.

Sono un veterano, un assassino morente. Ho paura che ogni giorno sarà l’ultimo, quindi apro le mie gambe a serpenti, draghi e pesci, per trovare la mia cervice, strisciare nel mio grembo, scalare la mia spina dorsale e unirsi agli altri insetti nel mio cuore.

Sono il drago, che è connesso a tutti, più vicino del previsto, numerabile, grosso, lungo e viscido, che ha sentito che non c’è fine alla follia, che potrebbe non ricordare nulla, ma sa tutto.

Scivolo dentro me stesso, melma su melma, facendo l’amore incondizionato con me stesso, guardando tutta la merda e il sangue sulla terra, 

spingendo il serpente sempre più in profondità, finché il dolore e l’amore sono dello stesso colore, perché sono più grande, più piccolo, più alto , di tutto questo.

I am the serpent, the fish, the dragon of love who lives in my heart, nine dimensions smaller and higher than you or me. 

I am a serpent – thick, long, and slimy, with secrets behind every scale.

I am a victim, a poor boy from a bad family. This time, my spine is the question mark, suffering slimy with decay.

I am a veteran, a dying murderer. I am scared every day will be my last, so I open my legs, for serpents, dragons, and fish, to find my cervix, crawl into my womb, scale my spine, and join the other insects in my heart.

I am the dragon, who is connected to everyone, closer than expected, countable, thick, long, and slimy, who heard there is no end to the madness, who might remember nothing, but knows everything. 

I slide into myself, slime on slime, making unconditional love to myself, wading through all of the shit and blood on earth, pushing the snake deeper and deeper, until pain and love are the same color, because I am bigger, smaller, higher, than all of it. 


Poem 6:

Mi chiama Viscerale Sincronizzatore

Posso parlare con i morti. Li vedo negli angoli crepati di antichi edifici, vedo i loro bei volti rugosi nei miei sogni.

Cammino sulla linea sottile tra banale e universale, dove ai morti piace vivere. Cresco su quella linea, come i funghi.

Mi fido di creature inaffidabili perché so che mi rispettano, i loro occhi che guardano dal legno e dalla pietra che gettano un ponte su ogni acqua profonda. Tutti abbiamo conosciuto lo stesso profondo dolore e scegliamo ancora l’amore.

Mi abbraccio, e dalla cisterna della solitudine risorgono i morti.

I can speak to dead people. I see them in cracked corners of ancient buildings, I see their wrinkly, beautiful faces in my dreams.

I walk the thin line between mundane and universal, where dead people like to live. I grow on that line, like mushrooms.

I trust untrustable creatures because I know they respect me, their eyes watching from the wood and stone that bridges every deep water. We all have known the same deep pain, and still choose love.

I hug myself, and from the cistern of loneliness, the dead rise.


Poem 7:

Mi chiama Viottolo Supino

È stato un errore per me venire qui, incarnarmi su questa Terra. Sono debole, sono fondamentalmente una persona cattiva, non importa quanto mi sforzi di essere buono. Tutto ciò che faccio causa dolore a qualcun altro e mi ricorda che sono distrutto fino in fondo. Mi sento un alieno, un fantasma, un pesce fuor d’acqua. Mi sento come un bambino piccolo che non sa dove andare o cosa fare, come se avessi bisogno di qualcuno che mi tenesse per mano mentre giro ogni angolo. Mi sento piccolo e vulnerabile.

Ma nessuno sa come fare questo per me, e Dio ha gettato la mia anima su questa Terra, come una lenza da pesca, una piccola corda d’argento che mi attacca all’estremità di una lunga serie di dolori, quindi non ho mai imparato a essere pieno o a camminare solo, libero e disancorato. 

Dio ha fatto del tempo il mio problema, Dio mi ha detto di trovare un modo per essere la persona più grande, di sacrificare la mia interezza, nascondere il mio dolore, solo per essere incluso in qualche falsa società, per portare i problemi del mio lignaggio sulle mie piccole spalle, per essere attaccato dal dolore degli altri perché l’amore vero e ordinario da persone vere e ordinarie 

non sarà mai abbastanza per riempire il vuoto nella mia anima che è stato lì fin dal primo giorno solitario su questa Terra.

 A volte mi chiedo se il mio secchio di dolore perde sangue, e se sto lasciando una scia che fiutano tutti gli squali, o che sporca le vesti bianche degli angeli.

It was a mistake for me to come here, to be incarnated on this Earth. I am weak, I am fundamentally a bad person, no matter how hard I try to be a good one. Everything I do causes pain to someone else, and reminds me that I am broken to the core. I feel like an alien, like a ghost, like a fish out of water. I feel like a little baby who doesn’t know where to go or what to do, like I need someone to hold my hand as I turn every corner. I feel small and vulnerable. 

But nobody knows how to do this for me, and God threw my soul at this Earth, like a fishing line, a little silver cord attaching me to the end of a long string of pain, so I never learned how to be full or walk alone, free and unanchored.

 God made time my problem, God told me to find a way to be the biggest person, to sacrifice my wholeness, hide my pain, just to be included by some false society, to carry my lineage’s problems on my little shoulders, to be attacked by the pain of others because true, ordinary love from true, ordinary people will never be enough to fill the hole in my soul that has been there since the very first lonely day on this Earth. 

Sometimes I wonder if my bucket of pain leaks blood, and if I am leaving a trail that all the sharks smell, or that dirties the white robes of angels. 


Poem 8:

E alla fine, come all’inizio, e in ogni momento molecolare nel mezzo, torno a me stessa, la madre di tutte le madri, per mangiare vite di dolore e pace, 

lezione nel grande oblio

Incollo le pagine del mio libro con il mio sangue, come il grande autore, il grande 

Trasmutatore del vuoto in tempo e spazio, delle parole in esperimenti

Sono quello che ricorda tutto, facendo ballare e toccare l’immaginazione di me stesso in modo da poter tornare a me stesso volte e volte, aver imparato, esser stato.

Lecco ogni goccia del mio proprio sangue mentre striscia nel mio grembo,

non avendo perso nulla, e cambiato tutto, per piacere, per dolere, per imparare, ancora.

and in the end, as in the beginning, and every molecular moment  in between,

I return to myself, the mother of all mothers, to eat lifetimes of pain and peace, 

lessons in the great forgetting

I glue the pages of my book shut with my blood, as the great author, the great

transmuter of emptiness into time and space, of words into experiments

I am the one who remembers everything, making imaginations of myself dance and touch 

each other, so that I can return to myself time and time again, having learned, having been.

I lick up every drop of my own blood as I crawl back into my womb, having lost nothing, and changed everything, for pleasure, for pain, for learning, again.

Art on Dimensions: Selections and Essay

Visual arts selections:

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screen shot 2023 06 14 at 2.28.13 am

Poetry Selections:

Essay:

This selection of visual art and poetry pieces articulates themes which occur throughout life — namely the paradoxes/portals lying amongst the dimensions of ‘here and now,’ and in the border between mundane and universal imaginative spaces. My artwork is often inspired by the various planes of existence that we dream through in our day-to-day lives. We indulge in potentialities, weaving in and out of various lucidities to co-construct reality with one another. For example, my pieces “9th Dimension” and “10th Dimension” are explorative documentations of a recurring dream I had in 2020. Dreamscape demands a contemplation of interconnectedness — the space between ourselves and every other thing is fundamentally similar, existing within and beyond awareness.

Similarly, my piece “Our House” is a form and structure emerging from a loose watercolor wash wherein I attempt to literally draw out the feelings of home — an animate idea shared in our collective memories. Here, the loose colors of ‘house’ is the space which births the lines of ‘home,’ complementary yet self-transcendent. “Latent” more specifically explores the choreography of art-making. The piece’s name, and form, are reminiscent of the late-night energies it was created with. The process of creating this piece was a meditative dance, concretized in paint, bringing the ephemeral into the physical, acting as a portal in a way.

In “Breath,” I am reflecting on the collective pandemic trauma’s physicalization in space. The piece was inspired by the textures and forms of various cloth masks that I have — the two vertical lines represent both elastic ear-pieces on masks, and two socially distanced people — both of which are physically separated but vitally united in effort. A mouth-like liminality emerges as these two lines define and transcend boundaries between the internal and external, from the cellular to the societal.

As for the poems, “Fawning From Vitality,” is an exploration of temporalities. Reflecting on the smallness of the present in the grandiosity of existence, it is an attempt to cope with the fatigue of searching for meaning across temporal leaps and bounds. Likewise, “Refraction” is an exploration of spatiality. I wrote this poem on the subway, as my environment refracted into multiplicities of spatial existences of myself, and my fellow-train car passengers. Where the subway train becomes the ancient earthworm, I sifted through the desires and delusions that fill the gaps between ‘here’ and ‘there’ on these mundane paths — offering portals into imaginative infinities.

Earthly Romances

A poem by Lily Selthofner.

What A Weird Place to End Up in by Lily Selthofner.

the sun grew in two sizes 

and the flowers became mountains.

teetering above

little ants orbiting summer skin

mistakes float on falling leaves

aching knees

marching westward

towards redemption

sorting open skies

with thunder breaths 

and forgiving dances 

antsy steps into vastness.

Guest

A poem by Lily Selthofner.

Sis by Lily Selthofner.

the heart aches in little universes and big bangs.

an illusive dance tangles the wind

in and out – dying before your chosen birth

you sway in peace, sensory guest

the instruments of experience

sound only with the steps of the dancer.

The Appeal of Cremation

A poem by Lily Selthofner, 2021.

Photo by Lily Selthofner, 2016.

release into the smoke

ashy fiery flames

burn the same as ancient wood.

a rising phoenix

or a slow decompose

earthy wormey dirt

breaks down my baby bones.

an immortal transition

away from life’s debt

face melting, skin burning 

maggots fill the lily.

inhale, exhale, stop.

which to choose:

to fly or to rot.

Creek

A poem by Lily Selthofner, 2021.

A Small Crossing by Lily Selthofner

time, insurmountable and irrelevant

children, innocent and…We are love 

able, craving simple warmth in tumultuous weather…

sharp edges drawing silent blood.

a future with… a present without

I pour from a cup filled with riveting ocean waves

sending sprinkles from afar

with uncertainty, may we dive.

Washed Out

A poem by Lily Selthofner, 2021.

Eastern Horizon by Lily Selthofner.

the same force that rolls waves upon the shore

sweetens breeze and echoes arial song

the backbone

brushes a woman’s dress as she walks

and screeches to her silent serenade

early ocean foam carries scavengers

little trinkets:

wind-washed seashells

casting little shadows in the late morning sun.

the waves ricochet

in fortune days

hiding empty messages from above

The Mystery of the Future

A poem by Lily Selthofner, 2022.

Photo by Lily Selthofner, 2022.

cyclical, seasonal

what burden to bear?

the weight may sparsely disappear

ease

spots trouble in the distance

the telescope of uncertainty 

smeared with the fog of conditioning

sticky fingers wiping away 

attachment to the good, bad, looming and lingering

in favor of a lighter next time.

Recycling

A poem by Lily Selthofner, 2021.

Photo by Lily Selthofner, 2022.

a looming threat manifests

in each gray moment unspent

simply sedated, devoid of sacred 

anxiously awaited in bed.

sometimes,

I miss when things were fun and easy.

sometimes,

things are fun and easy. 

the breeze ties your hair back

so you see, clearly 

the universe is giving.

‘wasting away’

is gathering the strength

to sink into ease again.

Refraction

A poem by Lily Selthofner, 2021.

Breath by Lily Selthofner

people all around me

are they hurting, are they healing?

are they writing, are they reading?

are they feeling, seeing

the world through which they hurry?

an imperfectly manicured journey, scrolling vulnerability 

as complex opacity confuses passerby

eyes blinded by neon lights 

while hands

grasp towards what is transparent.

Do you belong here:

in the city, on the street?

or with ancient earthworms digging under your feet?

may we see each other in timeless hues, idle mysteries uncovered.

Curiosity

A poem by Lily Selthofner, 2021.

Photo by Lily Selthofner, 2022.

wheels push the days into months

learned figures of god to follow

reality left unswallowed

loving hugs to marvel

with memories of source preceding,

beauty lingering

may each young vessel of potentiality

emerge unscathed, wrapped in the knowledge of birdsong

into each coming day and month

a baby, growing old

growing up.

Concrete Talons

A poem by Lily Selthofner, January 13, 2022.

Photo by Lily Selthofner, 2022.

scavenging

little moments of daydream escape.

from school bus to subway train

I travel

to and from the same location.

roads paved, from rural hometowns

to massive Manhattan highways

everyone waits

for the light to change.

We are all the same.

Fill my backpack with your labored desires,

so you may rest. sweet relief 

remains submissive

to the beck and call of heavy traffic.

Fatigues

A poem by Lily Selthofner, November 7, 2021.

Numbness by Lily Selthofner.

hunger left unsatiated

by an empty break.

berate the day– 

arrive late

to every calling.

a fragile child

gripping heavy wrists

tackles an impossible option– 

feel or function?

stagger through the thick mud of self-hatred

reach for the door–

before the enemy consumes.

bland years stink of decay

the soldier remains

shackled to the frail bed frame.

Seven Minutes

A poem by Lily Selthofner, 2021.

Photo by Lily Selthofner, 2022.

decibels sway, 

ache and echo.

overwhelming,

sentimental.

rolling wheels screech. 

ebb and flow

effervescent urban glow

alarms the tired benches of gray halls,

weeping into blankets

of cold, timeless boredom.

Full Moon in Aries

A poem by Lily Selthofner, Oct. 2021.

A Constellation by Lily Selthofner

don’t part

from dreams. open eyes

release 

anxiety

one foot forward

the other lingers 

behind 

until the next swing.

a dip plunging in

seek refuge in its entirety

Climbing, Lost

A poem by Lily Selthofner, November 2, 2021, Manhattan, NY.

An Optimistic, Nostalgic Tree by Lily Selthofner

‘Uphill battles should never be climbed –

alone.

find a perch, enjoy the view

nostalgic perceptions

wander towards the present 

where I may seek to take an easy step with you.’