AMERICAN CHIAMA ITALIA CHIAMA AMERICA
WRITING TOGETHER THROUGH THE QUARANTINE
Alessandra Bava (Italy), Peter Covino (U.S.), Maria Rosa Cutrufelli (Italy), Maurizio Fasano (Italy), Claudia Giunta (Italy), Diego Giunta (Italy), Edvige Giunta (U.S.), Jennifer Guglielmo (U.S.), Annie Lanzillotto (U.S.), Marianne Leone (U.S.), Caterina Romeo (Italy), and Dalila Urbano (Italy) formed two writing groups to share snippets of writing that documented living through the Covid-19 pandemic. Each writer wrote on an assigned day of the week, loosely responding to the previous writer’s post. We could write in verse or prose, or hybrid forms; we could write in English, Italian, a regional dialect, or any combination of the above. When we started, the outbreak was still at it as early stages in the United States. As things started getting better in Italy, they got worse in the United States. As we sheltered in place and experienced the individual and collective trauma of the global pandemic, this writing became a communal space where we connected and did not feel alone.
Here are twelve pieces (we included one piece per writer and two of us were in both groups) from this moving writing experience from nine towns/cities, two countries, two regions in Italy, and four states in the U.S., in quarantine.
Dalila Urbano, 26 marzo 2020
Cade pioggia fine e gelida su una fila di persone ordinata, silenziosa, rigorosamente distanziata. Prendo il carrello e faccio il giro largo per evitare di passare vicino agli altri. Non c’è più spazio per sorrisi o battute, solo sguardi sfuggenti e timorosi di volti coperti da antiestetiche mascherine. Ognuno è fermo al suo posto. Devi stare molto attenta, tu allatti, riecheggiano le parole di mio padre mentre disinfetto il manubrio del carrello. Un colpo di tosse e la folla sussulta. Un senzatetto senza guanti e mascherina, solo una busta di pane in mano, ci passa vicino sfidando la nostra paura.
Peter Covino, 27 March 2020
Eastern Mountain Sports
Oh, sickle moon whose reflection
I can’t quite track on the lake’s
glistening last few minutes of dusk.
The dogs pulling at their leash
tangled, amid the squawk of geese.
Mars or the North Star towers
above this Friday night guilt for
stopping here. To smell the water
muck. As Dr. Feelgood at week’s end
avoids the public health contagion,
which he refuses to discuss; whose
clothes he doesn’t immediately wash.
Ever since the virus I never feel warm
enough, I want to buy flannel-lined
pants but with these chiari di luna I need
to wait till they’re on sale. Sold out on
the website in hours. I’ll shop Kohl’s
instead. Depressing dark eye-makeup.
In 1993, I visited Papa Giovanni Hospital
in Bergamo on a social work fellowship.
Baby, I’m on my way home, even with the sexy
cruising men out in the park. Never mind
virtual happy hour, make me
a whiskey soda with lemon and a little sugar.
Alessandra Bava, 28 marzo 2020
Il cuore mi martella in gola. Mi sveglio con il corpo madido per l’ennesima vampata e la sensazione che il letto oscilli al ritmo discendente della risacca, mentre un canto di balene mi echeggia nelle orecchie; ma, sono solo le sirene spiegate in lontananza. La falce della luna sfarfalla dal lucernario. Brutta bestia la menopausa: la domi solo se non la temi e io ci ho fatto il callo. A volte mi sento come una improbabile San Giorgio, lancia in resta, pronta a infilzare il drago. Sì, anche in quarantena, rimango una sprezzante paladina: la Giovanna d’Arco delle perdute perdite.
Maurizio Fasano, 28 marzo 2020
It’s chinese, è italiano, ‘s spanish, è del gregge, è a stelle e strisce.
It’s a little thing saying “i confini non esistono.”
Nobody wants to die. Alone.
Ventilatori, posti letto, mascherine. Prima noi e adesso tutti?
Why the same mistakes? Perché non ci hanno creduto?
Cosa succederà? No answers. L’incertezza è la paura più grande.
Mentre i delfini tornano a nuotare a riva e Venezia diventa, se mai fosse stato possibile, ancora più bella, the Pope forgives everybody, ma San Pietro’s bells sono coperte dal suono delle ambulanze.
Caterina Romeo, 31 marzo 2020
In quei giorni a Berlino andavo continuamente a controllare se c’erano novità. Ancora nera, dicevo. Matthias non si capacitava del mio interesse per il conclave. You are not getting religious on me, are you? Da romana, anche se atea, conservo una certa fascinazione per i riti vaticani. Ora guardo Francesco, che esce su una Piazza San Pietro deserta, che chiede al Loro Signore di dissipare le tenebre. Il giorno dopo quell’immagine mi giunge trasformata. Lui è sul sagrato silenzioso. Nella mano destra ha una spada laser. A distanza, di fronte a lui, Darth Vader. May the force be with you.
Jennifer Guglielmo, 4 April 2020
Un’ansia sotterranea. It takes me days of quiet, to begin to feel what’s going on more deeply. Dreams bring clues. The unconscious becomes conscious. All this chaos is churning up demons. My friend reports that the graffiti in the Bay Area has become grotesque in its racism in the last month. In the faculty meeting today administrators talked about the bottom line: layoffs and furloughs and cuts to our salaries and benefits, though the endowment is almost two billion dollars. They say we can return to class in the fall maybe. We’ll just sit farther apart and wear masks. Some governors have already started opening up more businesses in their states though the disease is just getting started. Anti-quarantine protesters gather in the streets and waive confederate flags and the commander in chief praises them. He tweets: “Our country is OPEN FOR BUSINESS again.”
Edvige Giunta, 13 April 2020
Tomorrow wild winds will hit us at 70 miles an hour. We might lose power. My husband heads for the garage to set up the generator to run the freezer, the fridge, computers, lamps. Twenty years ago lightning hit our house. It electrified it. The house shook. I wrapped my baby boy in a tablecloth and ran to the car in slippers. Electric poles had fallen to the ground. Exposed wires sent out sparks. My ten-year-old daughter was terrified. We drove to Louise and Ernie’s house and spent the night there. Today no one would open the door to us, to anyone.
Annie Lanzillotto, 30 April 2020
Sheltering-in-place alone is no joke. Every night I prepare things in case I am found. A couple of people I know, elder queers have been found dead in their apartments. When I was twelve, whenever an elderly neighbor didn’t answer the door for a coupla days, my mother would hang a gift on their doorknob; her coffee can raisin cakes, or a piece of palm, depending on the season. The next day we’d go look at the doorknob. If it was still there, she’d say, “Annie, you better go climb in their window!” I found a few dead, one slumped over the coffee table. Another in trembling state fallen between the bed and the radiator. Now I’m alone in lockdown. Every night I prepare things in case I am found. I folded the sheets and tablecloths the same width; stacked up perfectly. I ordered medical I.D. tags, engraved with my niece’s phone number. You gotta pick someone you think will outlive you. You become an insurance agency thinking about people. Do they do stupid things? Unlucky? I leave a window unlocked, incase one of the local kids has to climb in.
Diego Giunta, 3 May 2020
Apro gli occhi la mattina ed è vicino a me. Quando mi alzo, si alza con me. Mi preparo e la trovo lì, accanto a me. Guardo i miei cani e la sento vicina, mi ricorda che non mi lascerà. Mi rilasso in giardino con un caffè e me la trovo accanto. Fa sentire imponente la sua presenza. Non fa nulla di concreto ma fa sentire massiccia la sua presenza. Persino quando vado a dormire pervade i miei pensieri. Chiudo gli occhi e me la ritrovo nei sogni. È lei, sempre lei—Corona-ansia.
Marianne Leone, 7 May 2020
I cry every day now. Every day. Nothing has changed from the year 2005 except that the rest of the world has caught up with me, adrift in a sea of grief, rudderless. I listen to “Va, Pensiero” from Verdi’s Nabucco. It is my morning and evening devotion, and I weep at precisely the same line every time: “Oh mia Patria, si bella e perduta.” (Oh, my country, so beautiful and so lost). My son was pure love. And remained so throughout his life. He left abruptly on a cold winter’s morning at the start of the new year when I found him dead in his bed. My country lingers, dying slowly, drowning in a rising tide of cruelty and apathy, leaderless. So beautiful. So lost.
Maria Rosa, 31 maggio 2020
“Sono passata, c’era il portone chiuso.” La voce della mia amica, al telefono, è leggermente risentita. “Quale portone?”, chiedo. “Il portone della biblioteca, dove presentavi il tuo libro. Ero venuta per te.” Non rido nemmeno, tanto sono sbalordita: “Ma dove vivi? Ero in streaming, ovviamente!” Ovviamente, ripete lei. “Il coronavirus mi ha rimbecillito”, conclude in tono mesto. Ma io non sono d’accordo. Anzi. Questo scherzo dell’inconscio d’un tratto mi sembra bellissimo: è la voglia prepotente di tornare alla normalità, di sentire la nostra voce ‘dal vivo’, di raccontare e raccontarci ‘in presenza’. E’ il desiderio di essere nuovamente noi stesse.
Claudia Giunta, 7 June 2020
With no prior warning, my son announces he’s going out to protest. Pride and fear flood me. What about distancing? Masks? Police? I know I can’t stop him, and I don’t really want to. When he returns, he goes straight to shower, as I had instructed him. He emerges from the shower and comes to me. “I’m clean” he says, and hugs me. He talks non-stop, tells me all about it, how the protesters asked the police to take a knee with them but they wouldn’t. I imagine my brave boy who knows what’s right and good taking a knee, unafraid, his eyes filled with passion. I see him, and mine fill with tears.
Alessandra Bava is a poet and a translator living in Rome. Her poems and translations have appeared in Gargoyle, Plath Profiles, Thrush, Tinderbox and Waxwing, among others. Her two most recent translation works are Anthology of Contemporary American Women Poets (2018) and Anthology of Contemporary British Women Poets (2019). She is the Editor of HerKind, a poetry series dedicated to contemporary women’s poetry, for the Italian publisher Ensemble.
Peter Covino is an associate professor of English at the U of Rhode Island, and author of the poetry collections, The Right Place to Jump and Cut Off the Ears of Winter. His prizes include a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship and the PEN American/Osterweil Award.
Maria Rosa Cutrufelli, born in Messina, Sicily, lives in Roma. She has published nine novels, several anthologies, essays and radio plays for national radio and television. Her books have been translated in many languages. She writes for newspapers and magazines and has founded Tuttestorie, a journal of narrative and literature.
Maurizio Fasano legge con passione, scrive quando vuole. Vorrebbe scrivere un romanzo tutto con la lettera a, in tre lingue diverse. Vive a Roma, per il momento, con il cuore al sud Italia e la mente around the world.
Born and raised in Sicily, Claudia Giunta moved to the United States in her mid-twenties. She is an attorney in New York City and lives in New Jersey with her husband, two sons, one dog, and four (for now) cats.
Diego Odisseo Giunta (DOG) believes that his life mission is to rescue stray dogs. He has helped hundreds of dogs find a good home where they thrive. He lives in Gela, Sicily.
Edvige Giunta was born in Sicily and moved to the United States in 1984. She is the author of Writing with an Accent: Contemporary Italian American Women Authors and coeditor of several anthologies. She is Professor of English at New Jersey City University.
Jennifer Guglielmo is a historian and writer, currently working with the National Domestic Workers Alliance to bring the histories of domestic worker organizing more fully into their political education curriculum. She is an associate professor of history at Smith College.
Annie Lanzillotto is a Bronx born artist of Barese heritage: author, poet, performance-artist, songwriter, and since CoVid19, a still-life painter. http://www.annielanzillotto.com. https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/annie-lanzillotto
Marianne Leone is the author of Jesse (Simon & Schuster) and Ma Speaks Up (Beacon Press). He essays appear in the Boston Globe, Solstice, Coastal Living, Bark, Post Road, and others. She had a recurring role on HBO’s The Sopranos and acted in films by John Sayles, Larry David, Martin Scorsese and David O. Russell.
Caterina Romeo is Associate Professor at Sapienza Università di Roma, where she teaches Literary Theory and Gender Studies. She is the author of Riscrivere la nazione. La letteratura italiana postcoloniale (2018) and the co-editor of Postcolonial Italy (2012). She has translated into Italian the work of numerous Italian American women writers.
A psychology graduate, Dalila Urbano works as real estate agent and clothing shop owner to adapt to the economic crisis s in Italy.Born in Sicily, raised in Rome, viscerally connected to Latin America, she is a lover of volcanoes and sand, a belly dancer, a drummer, a mother traveling the world with her son, even from shelter-in-place.