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don’t pass the border

viviana silvia piciulo

I’m almost there... at last! Who knows what this country will be like!
One day, when my beloved city is free from civil war, I hope to be able to leave this place and go back to my country.
I am a foreigner among other foreigners...
- Stop there'! where are you coming from?
- Good day... good day...
- Ok, one good day is enough... let’s see your documents!
- Well, kind officer, that’s just what I wanted to say...I’ve lost them...some thieves robbed me and took everything, and all I have left are these rags you see here...
- Right! get out then... go back where you come from!
- Pardon! What are you saying? all hell has broken loose in my country, I’ve been banished ...when I got out the faction in opposition to the government I represented wanted to kill me... if I go back I’m a dead man!
- Ah...I see...you’re a refugee...Puccio write: “petty thief escaped from jail, looks dangerous, no documents...

- Sorry, Sir...you haven’t understood, perhaps I did not explain well... I’ve come through your “thick and living forest” together with this great host of friends to ...
- Aha! this bastard has brought his relatives, as usual. Don’t tell me you’re thinking about having your wife come, too!
- I wish I could, unluckily she has to stay in my city, but undoubtedly I hope she can come and live here, along with my son Pietro and his wife.
- Listen, Puccio! it’s classic...another foreigner who takes advantage of his family thinking to come here and lord it over everyone. You lousy riff-raff, do you think we give food away here?
- You’re right, Nello! where can we put him?
- In jail, clearly! he’s an illegal immigrant and therefore... a criminal...
- Uh - excuse me, Sirs...but if you ask the Polentani family, they can explain who I am. Some time ago I was invited by them.
- Listen to this guy! if we went to ask our government about every refugee we’d all wind up in the gallows!
The laughter grew like snails after the rain. One of the soldiers added: - But at least you have a profession? what can you do?
- I can write! I’m a poet.
- That’s rich! look at this wretch in rags who expect to find America as a poet! What use to me is your lousy poetry in some shitty language?

Night had started to invade me, darkness filled my stomach... among so many desperate people, I began to understand that it would not be easy to get used to being a foreigner in this foreign land. I was about to give up... to go back home... everything was lost... I had no strength left, and out of despair I started to recite one of my favourite cantos...
When I was done, silence illuminated me. The look on the faces around me held me up ...
The captain appeared among the crowd of guards and proclaimed:
- Dumb idiots! ask this stranger what his name is:
- Sir, what name do you declare:
- I am Alighieri, “the divine poet”.

Viviana Silvia Piciulo was born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1963. After graduating in history from the University of Buenos Aires, she held the Chair of the History of Social Sciences in that university, where she did research on Italian migration to Argentina with a grant from the Italian Consiglio Nazionale per la Ricerca (National Research Council). In 1991 she won the essay competition "Il Viaggio e l'Avventura" (Italian Embassy of Buenos Aires e Alitalia) and in 1992 a scholarship from the Italian Foreign Ministry to the University of Bologna. In 1996 she received the short story prize promoted by the Secretary for Culture of the City of Buenos Aires. Since 1992 she has lived in Bologna, where she continues her research and publications on the history of migration, thanks to various grants from Italian research foundations. Since 2001 she has carried out intercultural projects involving literary performances through her association "Specchio Lucente", as well as collaborating with Italian universities, schools ad NGOs.
Translated by Brenda Porster

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Anno 6, Numero 26
December 2009



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