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To Nicoletta, from Erri




(Photo: Nicoletta Dosio, ANSA)

Editor’s note: Shortly after New Year’s Day, Erri De Luca published a poem dedicated to Nicoletta Dosio.

On December 30, 2019, Nicoletta Dosio, the seventy-three year-old ex-schoolteacher and activist from Bussoleno in Italy’s Susa Valley, was sent to prison by the Italian state. Dosio is a leading figure in the No TAV movement that, for more than twenty years, has mobilized to stop the environmental damage of a proposed new train line from Lyon to Turin. She was convicted of blocking traffic at a highway tollgate during a 2012 demonstration and sentenced to a year in prison.

To Nicoletta, from Erri

Tonight, Nicoletta,
you might be thinking,
what if I die in prison,
what if the registry turns out
to have been the entryway.
A name may be carved in stone,
because it doggedly fights
for the solitary freedom
never to quit, to keep asking.
Tonight, Nicoletta,
you might be thinking,
since prisoners’ thoughts are free
to come and go,
about how strange it is
that keys make so much noise
on the shopfloor of atonement.
So you cover up,
put on another layer,
you thought ahead and packed for winter.
Yes, your good name is a worthy thing,
but life itself is worth it,
on its own terms,
it sounds its beat quietly in your veins,
Yes, obstinate enough to squeeze out
a tear or two of gratitude for life
and for this bewildering start to a year,
it seemed to celebrate your entrance.
The number of a year has now gone by.
The time is tomorrow, Nicoletta,
and your cell is a day ahead,
because you are that day.

Translated by Jim Hicks

Erri De Luca is an Italian novelist, writer, translator, and poet. In 2014, the Italian state filed charges against him for remarks he made in support of the No TAV movement during an interview. In 2015, he was acquitted, and the presiding judge commented that there had been no crime.

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