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from the June 2020 issue

[When I was born my mother]

[Quando nacqui mia madre]

A gender transition unites a mother and daughter in this poem by Giovanna Cristina Vivinetto.



When I was born my mother
gave me an ancient gift,
the gift of the mystic Tiresias:
to change sex once in my life.
Even from my first wails she understood
that my growth would be
a rebellion to come unstuck from my flesh
a fratricidal fight between spirit
and skin. An annihilation.
So she gave me her clothes,
her shoes, her lipstick;
she said: “Take these, my son,
become what you are
if what you are you can’t have been.”
I became a mystic, another Tiresias.
I practiced the art of clairvoyance,
became a sorceress, a witch, a woman
and I surrendered to the whisper of the body
—succumbed to its feminine seduction.
It was then that my mother
lived on in me, made me
younger daughter of my time,
time in which one can thrive so long
as they wander in circles, blind
—so long as they hide, just like Tiresias,
a mystery they can’t speak.


"Quando nacqui mia madre" © Giovanna Cristina Vivinetto. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2020 by Danielle Pieratti. All rights reserved.

[Quando nacqui mia madre]

Quando nacqui mia madre
mi fece un dono antichissimo,
il dono dell’indovino Tiresia:
mutare sesso una volta nella vita.
Già dal primo vagito comprese
che il mio crescere sarebbe stato
un ribelle scollarsi dalla carne,
una lotta fratricida tra spirito
e pelle. Un annichilimento.
Così mi diede i suoi vestiti,
le sue scarpe, i suoi rossetti;
mi disse: “prendi, figlio mio,
diventa ciò che sei
se ciò che sei non hai potuto essere”.
Divenni indovina, un’altra Tiresia.
Praticai l’arte della veggenza,
mi feci maga, strega, donna
e mi arresi al bisbiglio del corpo
– cedetti alla sua femminea seduzione.
Fu allora che mia madre
si perpetuò in me, mi rese
figlia cadetta del mio tempo,
in cui si può vivere bene a patto
che si vaghi in tondo, ciechi
– che si celi, proprio come Tiresia,
un mistero che non si può dire.

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