Gramsci’s Ashes

I was in Rome this past spring and went to an exhibit on Pasolini at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, which included an excerpt from his poem ‘Gramsci’s Ahses’. I particularly like this bit:

Here are the seeds – I testify –

still undispersed by the ancient rule,

these dead men chained to ownership

that over centuries submerges their shame

and their grandeur: at the same time, obsessed –

the striking of anvils, stifled,

quietly grieving – of the lowly

quarter – attesting to its end.

And here I am… a poor man, dressed

in clothes the poor ogle in store windows

of coarse splendour, that have faded,

in the filth of more lost streets,

of streetcar benches, from which my day

is removed: more and more rarely

I have these days off from the torment

of deciding to live; and if it should happen I

love the world, it’s not with a violent

and ingenuous sensual love

like I had, a confused adolescent, a season

I hated; if in it I hurt the bourgeois

affliction of my bourgeois self: and now, the world

– with you – cleft, that part which had the power

doesn’t it seem now an object of bitterness,

almost mystical contempt?

Yet without your rigour, I exist

not because I choose to. I live in the non-will

of postwar decline: loving

the world I hate – in its distress

contemptuous and lost – in a dark scandal

of consciousness…

Read the whole thing here.


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