The Poetry Project

Three Poems to Ninetto Davoli

Pier Paolo Pasolini, translated by Peter Valente

Your stay has been legendary.
You are gone now and your bed is still unmade.
Not an hour has passed since you said, smiling,
“Paolo,” you were half undressed,

“Paolo,” with that humor that shines
in the eyes of a poor man who is, nonetheless, wise,
who is able to be happy alone. You repeated in your funny way,
a café-latte in hand, and your stomach still empty before breakfast, you

repeated my words of last night, “Paolo,” you said, and a minute later,
and just like this, “Do you want to see me anymore?”
and you waited, hiding your anxiety. I smiled.

“Yes, if you want to,” I responded, as I lay in bed,
and you, “Swear it,” and so I did. I said, “Oh if I am strong enough,
my dear Ninetto.” Ah, and then you laughed.

It is said: A boy who is 23 years old
has a right to love a girl, a certain Patrizia,
of a good family of the people,
with their weeping black eyes and thin wrists.

There is no one who does not see in this love
all that is beautiful and traditional. They
are on your side. In their hearts they retain no pity
for the man that remains behind, abandoned and alone.

But reality is elsewhere, Ninetto. This love
does not glorify you. It humiliates you.
You are at bottom jealous of her. It is she who can

blackmail you for your previous love that was innocent.
You love her only if she weeps and is humiliated.
You don’t know how to maintain her
nor do you really want to.

This thought of Ninetto, when I return to it,
which is at least a hundred times a day,
gives certainty to a way of life. But it was a fable
I told myself,

half believing the words: my “cute one.” It was a term
I used with my mother. An unutterable joy trembles
inside me. It is an affection that causes the ice in my heart to melt.
My life was eternally committed to her familiar face.

Now, thoughts of Ninetto return. He is like a figure
from a crazy dream, a fugitive animal who ran away
but who now returns to the flock.

Perhaps I am the one you really want. But the day
will come when you “intense in both directions” will come to a decision
and I will be on the loser’s end, alone, totally alone and tired, so very tired.

Issue 12