Franca Mancinelli: a story



The Little Girl Who Learned How to Fly


A bird kept alighting on the windowsill and pecking the panes with its beak, brushing the glass with its wings, and then flying off. The rustling and the small beating sounds it made seemed letters of an alphabet to be deciphered. The bird would come at different times, sometimes in the morning and waking her, sometimes in the afternoon when she was bending over a sheet of paper and drawing. One day, after it had rained and she had gone down into the garden to look into the puddles, she saw a reflection of the little bird that came to the window. She turned around, looked at the highest branches of the trees, all the way to the top, then at the lawn and into the bushes, but couldn't spot the bird. She looked back into the puddle: there it was, resting on something invisible. She couldn't help but touch it with her finger, slowly so that it would not fly away. But as soon as her finger broke the surface of the water, the bird vanished. She no longer knew where to search for it, whether on the roof or in the most hidden recesses of the garden. As she was thinking about where it might be, she began to feel, in her shoulders, an ever stronger restlessness that kept her from staying still anywhere. The blond hair on her arms grew, turned white, then grey and finally brown. The hair bulbs had become bone; small feathers were popping up, like those of a sparrow fallen from its nest. Within a few hours her plumage had grown so much that she could start practicing her first test flights: running and then, having reached the maximum speed, leaping. Her leaps brought her off the lawn, carried her to the lowest branches of the trees. When she reached the linden tree, she continued to make short flights inside its foliage. Suddenly, having reached the top, she stopped to look down at the garden, the house where she had lived, and headed straight for the blue.


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), has just been published in Italy 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.