poems, golems, poems

Pasolini: “Supplica a mia madre / Prayer to my mother”

Posted by matt on 4 March 2008

madame seurat

Supplica a mia madre

È difficile dire con parole di figlio
ciò a cui nel cuore ben poco assomiglio.

Tu sei la sola al mondo che sa, del mio cuore,
ciò che è stato sempre, prima d’ogni altro amore.

Per questo devo dirti ciò ch’è orrendo conoscere:
è dentro la tua grazia che nasce la mia angoscia.

Sei insostituibile. Per questo è dannata
alla solitudine la vita che mi hai data.

E non voglio esser solo. Ho un’infinita fame
d’amore, dell’amore di corpi senza anima.

Perché l’anima è in te, sei tu, ma tu
sei mia madre e il tuo amore è la mia schiavitù:

ho passato l’infanzia schiavo di questo senso
alto, irrimediabile, di un impegno immenso.

Era l’unico modo per sentire la vita,
l’unica tinta, l’unica forma: ora è finita.

Sopravviviamo: ed è la confusione
di una vita rinata fuori dalla ragione.

Ti supplico, ah, ti supplico: non voler morire.
Sono qui, solo, con te, in un futuro aprile…

Pier Paolo Pasolini (b. 5 March 1922)

Prayer to my mother

It’s so hard to say in a son’s words
what I’m so little like in my heart.

Only you in all the world know what my
heart always held, before any other love.

So, I must tell you something terrible to know:
From within your kindness my anguish grew.

You’re irreplaceable. And because you are,
the life you gave me is condemned to loneliness.

And I don’t want to be alone. I have an infinite
hunger for love, love of bodies without souls.

For the soul is inside you, it is you, but
you’re my mother and your love’s my slavery:

My childhood I lived a slave to this lofty
incurable sense of an immense obligation.

It was the only way to feel life,
the unique form, sole color; now, it’s over.

We survive, in the confusion
of a life reborn outside reason.

I pray you, oh, I pray: Do not hope to die.
I’m here, alone, with you, in a future April…

Translation by Norman MacAfee with Luciano Martinengo

Photo credit: Madame Seurat courtesy the Getty Center Museum

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3 Responses to “Pasolini: “Supplica a mia madre / Prayer to my mother””

  1. Dear Matt:

    It’s a great poem. For the revised edition, from Farrar Straus Giroux, I amended the next-to-last line:

    I pray you, oh, I pray: Do not hope to die.

    Just wanted you to know.

    You might want to read the following:



  2. matt said

    Norman, thanks for alerting me to the revision. Wow, what a difference a phrase makes! I’ve edited the original post and rewired all the hyperlinks accordingly.

    And, thank you for all you have done over the years to bring the works of PPP closer to his English-speaking fans. Matt

  3. Matt, Thank you for inserting the revision. I read the poem recently in New York at a Pasolini celebration, along with pages 133-137 (the end of ‘Reality’) and ‘Southern Dawn.’ These poems still have enormous force, feeling, and meaning. Norman

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