Poems list
Poems by Vittorio Cimiotta
Poetry translation by John Mifsud


Marsa Allah. Port of God.
“Splendidissima urbs”.
A day long gone,
golden bridge between Middle East and West,
your arms cradled crescent moon and sun.
Beautiful doves that know no time
leave wind’s plane for lyre and song.


Orphan of a Thousand and One Nights
you go forlorn in search of Aladdin
finding only a by-now buried past.
Frail little girl living a fable
come dance again amid the clouds.
Winds. Breezes. Waves. Dance. Dance.
Lyrical arrows chords to the moon.
A harp lifts the air and the air my soul.
O shining star of the South please stay!
Enigmatic night dreams away,
softly dreams on white saltpan.


Awaken o Marsala!
Out of your fair dream to delve deep in your soil
and unearth the cultures hidden in your belly,
true soul of your splendour gateway to the sun.
Ancient Lilybaeum, silent tongue on the sea,
I return aloft wings of fancy
to find you as I knew you:
a Sibyl plays with sexton’s clutch,
a balladeer recounts the life of Giuliano,
Sicilian puppets dance a jig,
skylarks sip on lemon nectar
and on high half-moon with kite abides.

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What faces does this sea air bring?
Pirates or merchants, sorcerers or scientists
that come ashore with formulae and amulets?
What spell disrupts the flow of time
in Motya?
Perchance a wind from Lebanon
with no recollection
rouses visions of an Eastern dream.

In the Tophet burn incense and thyme.
Tanit shines in crimson robes
and linen cleavage.
Chaste maidens dance on sea breezes.
Pan buried the past in vineyards, trees and goats.
In light, in shadows amid vases, stelae and amphorae
Eastern chants rise over and again.

O you,
Phoenician or plebeian, that sink your feet
in distant millennia
into a suspended and dreaming islet,
turn your thoughts to She, young maiden,
who perhaps for you burned in offering to Tanit.

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Sibyl. Eternal Sibyl.
Unto you ran
pilgrims vexed.
You received the afflicted
and gave prophesy and hope.

For centuries and millennia
you have rent time
with a long, long lament
in the Lagoon of the firmament.
Who pierced your heart?
Who has ravaged your destiny?

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Crispia Salvia.
In Lilybaeum,
in this holy place
Julius Demetrius,
your beloved spouse,
stood by you with his love.
In Lilybaeum
dwells your beauty.
In Lilybaeum
you lie in ceaseless sleep.

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(a cross between marble and dream)

I’ve waited two thousand years to find you.
I’ll wait another two thousand years.
I will keep on searching for your soul,
if you have a soul,
to pour in my breath
then perhaps you’ll be mine for all time.

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You ploughed the blue sea intrepid.
You took on tempest and storm.

You’ve come to us through distant ages.
You’ve come up from the depths of sea
a veritable marvel for our eyes.

Safe from the winds
you lie now in a museum
in posterity for those to come.

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Your frescoes
still astonish.
In your gardens
song and music
still resound.
In the sunlight
your vestiges
live on and on.

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Endless vineyards
of verdant vine leaves
surround you Marsala.

Your soil, nature’s lifeblood,
feeds vines and yields gilt clusters.
Grapes at midday
steal sun’s warmth
and cicadas in chorus
chant a tuneful verse.

Autumn comes with the harvest.
Damp dewdrops and withered leaves.
Must already ferments in vats.
It’s a feast. A big feast!
Magic ritual is repeated.

The passage of time improves the nectar
and makes it sublime.
Thus is born the wine of Marsala.
Harbinger of good cheer.

Its bouquet intoxicates
conquers the heart.
Its perfume
seeps into the soul inducing dreams.

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Phantoms. Cathedrals
faded by time.
to the famous wine.

O Marsala, without your bagli
you would not be what you are.
They are your imprint.
They are your culture
both old and new.

Reborn in a new guise.
In vast places
in oaken casks
austere Marsala wine
lay and aged.
In stately halls
and fine hostels
blithe tourists stay today.
Delightful Eden.
Evocative beauty
startles and enchants.

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Marsala 11 May 1860

The star of Italy
to Marsala
guided the Thousand.
A people’s war
sacred and pure.
Giuseppe Garibaldi
intrepid general
led them to victory.
Honour and glory
to the hero of Two Worlds.
The martyrs’ blood
blessed Italy’s Union.

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Marsala 11 MAY 1943-Gold medal for civil valour

In the Villa del Rosario
the children played.

A deluge of lead
clouded the sun. The sky fell down.
An immense white cloud
rose up from the strewn debris
a city turned to sepulchre.

The lament of children
reached earth’s core.
Plaster-cast angels
closed their eyes.
The grim silence of tufa
engulfed their dreams.

O, city of sadness.
Holocaust and victim town.
The life of the living
ravaged forever
made more dead than the dead.

What nightingale sings
on tree-branch today?
And of what tale does it tell?

Sweet and wistful
your song reaches the soul.
A song of love.
Go on. Go on, sing.

In the Villa del Rosario
the children played.

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How many times
have I walked your way.
How many times
have you counted my steps.
You know my steps
my joys and sorrows.

I return to you, Cassero of my youth,
to seek in footsteps worn by time
my roots and being.
I return to you, Cassero of my reminiscence,
witness and keeper of noble thoughts.

Between one step and the next
debating man’s knowledge
furtive glances would always meet.
Knowing glances.
Glances like caresses.
Such eyes! Such ardent eyes!
O how beautiful the girls of the South!

Via del Cassero,
between your walls
I lived out my childhood years.
In your flagstones
I left behind my dreams.
Triumphs? Or defeats?
To each his destiny.

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in your square
I rediscovered the Mother Church
with its austere baroque,
I rediscovered the Palazzo 7 Aprile
with its classical style,
I rediscovered the Circolo Lilibeo
to friends an evening rendezvous.

in your square
I rediscovered the human muse
of your generous people,
I rediscovered the ineffable beauty
of your graceful finesse.

In your sky
white doves fly.

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Mother Church
majestic is your facade.
Austere your baroque.
Marble columns of Corinthia
raise your Temple.
Resplendent altar
and spacious aisles
give glory to God.
Eight Flemish tapestries
augment your treasures.

Mother Church
the faith of your children
in your mystical body
lives and is renewed.
With baptism
you usher in life’s advent.
With your love
you guide us to eternal rest.

Mother Church
you are the alpha and the omega.

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Ancestral palazzi
of pure baroque
line your streets.
Regal halls
and ample windows
with iron balconies
brimming with flowers
ornament your visage.

Noble grandeur.
Pride of past splendour.
Elegance and style
honour you Marsala.

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Ancient monastery.
Amid your arches I heard
the murmur of prayers.
Amid your columns I recalled
musings profound.
Amid your silence I found
serenity of spirit.

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(City museum)

Your forms are like
arcades of sky.
Precious design.
From the oblivion of time
to new life restored.

From lighted windows
your quad tower keeps vigil.
Keeps vigil over the town.
Light in the night.
Light of the spirit, in days gone by.
Light of wisdom, in the present day.

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Tonight the lagoon
is a banquet of stars.
In clear water
the universe is reflected.

The fish sleep.
The gulls sleep.
Delicately a swish
breaks the still:
a wave that breaks,
vanishing into sand.
Close to the jetty
in matching cadence
the boats are swayed.

Impromptu and alone
a small reef fish appears
wriggles then dives
leaving behind it
little ripples of water.
Amid white saltpans
the sleepy windmills
await the mistral wind.

The air is floodlit
in moon-white
sowing peace and sighs.
The sky gets intimate,
intimate with the stars.
The lagoon is in ecstasy.
The lagoon dreams…dreams.
Dream does the lagoon
with fishing lamps on its waters
and the moon in its firmament.
The soul is enraptured
brimming with feeling.

(published by Onyx Edizioni-2006)

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Seaside harbour
that draws people nearer.
Your jetty harbours
the traces of myth.
Your breezes tell
of ancient legends.
Over your waters
seagulls chase
sail boats and memory.

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Morning sea breezes
drift through the market.
The air is perfumed and flavoured
with seaweed and salt.

Fresh and lively
on counters leaping, wriggling
bass, gilthead and white bream,
lobsters and mullet from the Lagoon.

Town criers of good news
the fishmongers bellow out
their uplifting spiels
of chowders and couscous.

Far from my sea
I yearn for its perfumes.
Far from my sea
I yearn for its fresh flavours
to while away the evening.

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Treasure-trove of art.
Elegant and refined.
Gilded boxes
draped in velvet
crown your aspect.

The lights are dimmed.
The curtain rises.
Tragedies, comedies and parodies.
The masks of life.
At the foot of the stage
burns a sacred flame.

You always enthral with your magic.
You always thrill.
You always lift our spirits.