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Franca Mancinelli: a story

The Love of Fire

The little girl had left dinner. The intricate conversation did not concern her. She had escaped easily, like a dog through the broken chain-wire fence of the garden: a hole hidden by the hedge, from which she could leave and come back undisturbed. She had curled up alone on the sofa. The television was turned off, and she was watching the fire in the fireplace, shivering as if it were cold. The fire cannot be caressed by anyone. It is always a little distant from the others, in its own space, alongside newspapers and pieces of wood; they will be in its arms until they become ashes. This is how the fire loves. The girl took a newspaper page. It was so large that it could have wrapped her up entirely. But as soon as she thought of doing so, she felt the cold and the smell of a dead fish on it. She crumpled the newspaper gently. As it shrank into her hands it took on the appearance of a small animal. It was just that: it smiled at her, thanking her for recognising it even if it didn't have eyes and a muzzle, and its paws had remained closed, bound up inside its body. The little animal was rocking, it wanted to be cradled. The grown-ups remained silent longer, longer and longer, each one sitting on their chair like embers that were going out, gradually more distant from each other, fragments of the tree trunk that they had been. When goodbyes were said, they found the little girl asleep on the sofa holding an oddly scrunched-up newspaper in her arms. The fire was still flickering up, weakly, like a plant that doesn't have enough light. The mother slipped the newspaper from the arms of the little girl who, while she was waking, had time to see the movement that ended with the throwing of her pet into the fireplace. The fire suddenly flared, opening its last blossom then closing back into itself, weaker than before, among its ashes. The little girl felt the tears stiffening in her forehead. They did not come out of her eyes, but remained suspended like small, thin stalactites.

Translated by John Taylor

Franca Mancinelli was born in Fano, Italy, in 1981. Her first two collections of verse poetry, Mala kruna (2007) and Pasta madre (2013), were awarded several prizes in Italy and later republished together as A un’ora di sonno da qui (2018) – a book now available in John Taylor’s English translation as At an Hour’s Sleep from Here (Bitter Oleander Press, 2019). Her new collection of poems, Tutti gli occhi che ho aperto (All the Eyes that I Have Opened), will appear in Italy, in September 2020, published by Marcos y Marcos.

John Taylor is an American writer, critic, and translator who lives in France. Among his many translations of French and Italian poetry are books by Philippe Jaccottet, Jacques Dupin, Pierre Chappuis, Pierre-Albert Jourdan, José-Flore Tappy, Pierre Voélin, Georges Perros, Lorenzo Calogero, and Alfredo de Palchi. He is the author of several volumes of short prose and poetry, most recently The Dark Brightness, Grassy Stairways, Remembrance of Water & Twenty-Five Trees, and a “double book” co-authored with Pierre Chappuis, A Notebook of Clouds & A Notebook of Ridges.

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