Poetry from The Guest by Elisa Biagini


If your skin is now a paper bag
for bread
it was once butter,
white light
not the stain of tea leaves on the tea bag,
not the mesh of veins,
just the white
and the dark spat out by shadows,
by cars,
by teeth:
your still shoulders,
his hands.


And when the hour comes
(you’ll have stumbled over the wrinkle of your years)
I’ll pour the wine, I’ll bring the pasta
custard, crostini
as a side dish for the body, color on white
spoon-feeding me the sods of your nest,
tangle of intestines.


How many you’s are
in you
nails under
layers of paint,
evident only to
the touch, keys
*******at the bottom
of a drawer?


these plates of yours
are my white
blood cells:
washed down the drain with
the soap, by now your cheeks
are white with myelin:

platelets appear
and are taken away, like skin
on milk boiled
too long.


Elisa Biagini

Elisa Biagini lives in Florence, Italy after having taught and studied in the U.S. for several years. She has published seven poetry collections--some of them bilingual--such as L’ospite (Einaudi, 2004), Fiato. Parole per musica (Edizioni d'if, 2006), Nel Bosco (Einaudi, 2007), and Da una crepa (Einaudi, 2014). A selection of her poems translated into English was published by Chelsea Editions in 2013 under the title The Guest in the Wood; it won the 2014 Best Translated Book Award. Her poems have been translated into English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Croatian, Japanese, Slovak, Russian, Serbian, Arabic, and Chinese. She has been invited to many important poetry festivals, and has held fellowships both in Italy and abroad. She has translated several contemporary American poets for reviews, anthologies, and complete collections (Nuovi Poeti Americani, Einaudi, 2006). She teaches creative writing/poetry, travel writing, literature, and art history in American universities in Italy and abroad.

Sarah Stickney and Diana Thow

Sarah Stickney received her MFA from the University of New Hampshire. She is a former Fulbright Grantee for the translation of Italian/Albanian poet Gëzim Hajdari. Her co-translations of Elisa Biagini's selected poems, The Guest in the Wood, received the Best Translated Book Award for poetry in 2014. Her poems and translations have appeared both in the U.S. and abroad in publications such as La Questione Romantica, Rhino, The Portland Review, Drunken Boat, Mudlark, The Notre Dame Review, Structo, Bateau, and others. She lives in Baltimore, MD.


Diana Thow's co-translation with Gian Maria Annovi of Amelia Rosselli's Impromptu was published in 2014 by Guernica Editions. Her translations of Rosselli have appeared in numerous journals and magazines and are anthologized in the Book of Twentieth Century Italian Poetry, edited by Geoffrey Brock (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012). Her co-translation, with Sarah Stickney, of Elisa Biagini's The Guest in the Wood (Chelsea Editions, 2013) won the Best Translated Book Award in 2014.  She is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

L’ospite. Copyright (c) Elisa Biagini, 2004. English translation copyright (c) Sarah Stickney and Diana Thow, 2016.