L’ultima estate in città

Rome was our city, it tolerated and coddled us and I too ended up discovering – despite the sporadic jobs, the weeks of hunger, the dark and humid hotel rooms full of jaundiced and brittle furniture like some obscure sickness of the liver – it was the only place I could have lived. And yet, when I think back on those years, I can’t remember more than a few faces, a few moments. There’s a particular inebriation to Rome that incinerates your memories. More than a city, it is a secret part of you, an animal hidden somewhere inside. And there are no half measures with her, either, it’s either head over heels or time to get going because, above all, the city demands devotion. But, in the end, this is the only tribute that will ever be asked of you […]. If you love her, she will offer herself up to you just the way you want, and you won’t have to do anything but float […]. And for you, then, those summer nights pierced with lights, those vibrant spring mornings, café napkins like women’s skirts blown about by wind, the biting winters and interminable autumns when the city seems powerless and sick, exhausted, swollen with the decapitated leaves you cover with your soundless steps. And for you, then, too the dazzling stairways and rushing fountains, the ruined temples and the now ousted gods’ nocturnal silences until time itself loses all meaning. And this is precisely how, day after day, waiting, you will become a part of her. And this is how you too will begin to feed the city until one sun-filled day, a slight scent of sea in the wind,  you will look up at the sky and realize  there is nothing left to wait for at all.

– Gianfranco Calligarich. L’ultima estate in città. Garzanti, 1973

(translation Misera e stupenda città)



A dark night. Water darker. Early summer, oil film warm. Last lights sickleing northward along the Tyrrhenian coast. A man in black tie sat alone on black sand. Gets up. Walks in.Image

From ‘Eternal City’


What’s happened to this old lane of the dead?
A row of lights across the land, fulgent string
A buzzing of engines between walls
Labored breath, a shying away from strangers’ limbs
A look into emptiness between day and sleep.
And nonetheless on a short outing maybe
You recognize the gate again, the staggered wall
And across the field the fleeting arcades, the aqueducts
And the smell of grain, and the swallows’ black turret-like tails
Spun out into the golden sky. And that of the bats
That rises and falls with the wind. Yes, there you confront
Your no-longer-me. The stripping away, deliverance
From that which was and will be. But all this is gone
By the time you see the old cryptic tavern sign
“Here no one ever dies. Qui non si muore mai.

– Marie Luise Kaschnitz (trans. Alexander Booth)


Was ist aus der alten Totenstrasse geworden?/Eine Lichterreihe landüber, glänzende Schnur/Ein Brausen von Motoren zwischen Mauern/Mühsamer Atem, Scheu vor fremden Gliedern/Blick in die Leere, zwischen Tag und Schlaf./Und doch vielleicht beim kurzen Aufenthalt/Erkennst Du wieder das Tor, die gestaffelte Mauer/Und feldüber die flüchtigen Arkaden, die Wasserträger/Und den Geruch von Korn und die schwarzen Schwalbenschwanzzinnen/In den goldenen Himmel gereckt. Und der Fledermäuse/Das sich aufhebt und sinkt mit dem Winde. Ja, dort erfährst Du/Dein Nicht mehr-ich. Die Ablösung, Erlösung/Von dem was war und wird. Den Hauch Vorbei/Beim alten rätselhaften Wirsthausschild/„hier stirbt man nie. Qui non si muore mai.“  (Marie Luise Kaschnitz. Ewige Stadt. Scherpe-Verlag, Krefeld. 1952)

Disjecta Membra: Postcard Texts

Alexander Booth has two new (old) pieces up with the fine folks at Ghost Proposal

These were part of a series written in 2006 on Via dei Castani, in Centocelle, Rome

Piazza Mirti

Misera e stupenda città, 2005

Two poems

Alexander Booth has two new poems at BODY


Rome a labyrinth of guttering lights. Flickering, never quite aflame, but for the remnants coming still and going floating across the cobbled streets, their wisping back and forth from the Castel Sant’Angelo, those flames that would sputter out and stop sometime around the 19th century.

(An awareness of the burnings at best obscure now in autumn’s crisp seams of smoke, glimpsed maybe but to remain unprocessed passing the grim unintentional irony of the bars that belt this once Field of Flowers, that flame against the cold and damp)

The guttering amber light of Rome. Resin-like, seductive it is somnambulist.

Happy Birthday, Herr Waiblinger


Wunder bietet die Vorwelt dir an,
Und Wunder die Mitwelt

Wilhelm Waiblinger (1804 Heilbronn – 1830 Rome)


Wonder the past offers you still,
And wonder too today

At September’s end

No Rome syndrome, but
Roman hue of ruin this orange
Late September sky

New site

Alexander Booth has a new site: please visit here.

Misera e stupenda città of course shall continue.

PEN 2012

Misera e stupenda citta‘s Alexander Booth has been awarded one of PEN America’s 2012 translation fund grants

For a complete list of this year’s recipients & their projects please visit

PEN American Center