Nino Provenzano is Vice President of Arba Sicula. He has already published two other anthologies with Legas: Vinissi (I Would Love to Come) 1999, and Tornu (The Return), 2009. Nino recently translated a collection of sonnets from English to Sicilian by well-known Italian-American poet, Frank Polizzi. He has also translated into Sicilian some poems from Journey to the Heart Waters by Louisa Calio, for Journal of Italian Translation, edited by Luigi Bonaffini. Some of Provenzano’s poems were included in Poets of the Italian Diaspora, ed. by L. Bonaffini and G. Perricone, published in 2014. His poems frequently appear in Arba Sicula and in Sicilia Parra for which he writes book reviews. Nino Provenzano is well known in the Sicilian-American communities in the United States and he is often called to recite his poetry in schools, social clubs, cultural organizations and universities. Nino has collaborated with film-maker Spike Lee and Actor/Director John Turturro. He has won several Poetry Prizes. In 2013, he received the “Salvatore Quasimodo” from the City of Messina, Italy.
Translated by Gatano Cipolla
Era febbraiu, un iornu friddulusu,
c’era lu suli, però nun quariava.
Un’autobussu ia pagghiri susu,
siguia la strata però si firmava
pi lassari e pigghiari passaggeri.
A un certu puntu, acchiana un omu anzianu.
Avia ‘nmazzu di rosi frischi e veri
e s’iu assittari cu ddi rosi ‘mmanu.
A specchiu ad iddu c’era un giovanottu
chi taliava ddi ciuri e l’ammirava
cu gran curiusità. E poi di bottu
dissi all’anzianu “Eu puru l’accattava
s’avia li sordi, ma haiu sta cartulina,
oggi è San Valintinu e a la me zita
ci portu sulu sta cosa mischina.
Ma ni vulemu beni pi la vita!
L’anzianu l’attintau, fici un surrisu,
poi si susiu, e misi chiddi rosi
‘mmanu a ddu giovanottu, chi surprisu
dissi, “Mancu pi sonnu! No sti cosi!
No, nun l’accettu, nun sunnu pi mia!
Eu lu dicia tantu pi parrari!
E lei soccu ci porta dunni ia?”
L’anzianu dissi “Un ti prioccupari!
Portali tu sti rosi a la to amata
ed iu a me muggheri lu va cuntu
chi ti li detti a tia. Sara’ priata.
Iu scinnu a sta firmata, sugnu iuntu.
L’autobussu firmau, l’omu scinniu,
senza mancu vutarisi narreri.
Cu li manu vacanti sinni iu.
Passau ddu latu di lu marciaperi.
Ddu giovanottu incredulu siguiu
cu l’occhi a dd’omu e nun ci parsi veru
quannu a distanza vitti chi spinciu
na grara...... e trasiu nta un cimiteru
It Was February
It was a cold and humid day in February,
the sun was shining, but gave out no heat.
A bus passed by that headed toward the north,
traveling up its route and making stops
to pick up and discharge its passengers.
An aged man climbed on along the way,
holding a bunch of roses in his arms,
and he proceeded to go find a seat.
Seated across from him there was a young man
who gazed with curiosity and admiration
at those fresh flowers. Suddenly he said
to the old man, “I would have bought some too,
if I had any money. But I have
only this card. Today’s St. Valentine
and this is all I have to bring my love.
But our love will endure for our whole life.”
The old man listened, broke into a smile,
then he got up and placed his bunch of roses
in the hands of the young man who, surprised,
said, “No, not even as a joke. I can’t.
I can’t accept your gift. They’re not for me.
I said that just to make some conversation!
What would you take to where you’re going then?”
The old man said: “Don’t worry about that!
You take these roses to your fiancée,
and I will just explain to my dear wife
that I gave them to you. She’ll be so pleased.
And now I must get off. We’ve reached my stop.”
The bus then stopped and the old man got off,
with empty hands, and did not even turn
around to say good-bye. Then he went on
and walked along the opposite sidewalk.
The young man watched the fellow as he went
and he could not believe what his eyes saw.
The man came up against a heavy gate,
he pushed it and went in a cemetery.
Cu ogni risata mori!
Si a un nuzzinteddu orfanu
l’abbrazzi e ti lu strinci,
ci fai li tò carizzi,
lu so surrisu vinci.
Si a una vicchiaredda
la vai a visitari,
ci fai un rialu granni
chi nun si pò accattari.
Si anziana e picciriddu
poi ridinu cu tia,
li ciuri di li campi
si vasanu, sù ‘nfesta,
si scancianu prufumi,
tintinnanu la testa.
Si la risata è spinta
e fatta a beddu cori,
na troffa d’erva tinta
cu ogni risata mori!…..
With Every Laugh It Dies
If you hug close against your heart,
a little orphan child
and give him a caress,
he will reward you with a smile.
And if you pay a visit
to a frail old woman,
you give her a big gift
that can’t be bought.
If child and aged woman
a laugh with you then share,
the flowers in the field
will blossom with a cheer.
They dance and they embrace,
they kiss and cry with joy,
exchanging their perfume,
and their heads sway with glee.
If then the laugh is hearty
and is sincere enough,
a tuft of evil weed
will die with every laugh!48
Dopu un’eternità d’aspittari,
pi nasciri vinni a stu munnu,
cu cordi aggruppati.
Avi chi sciogghiu gruppa
…E dopu chiossai
di dui quarti e menzu di seculu,
ancora …. un sugnu lestu!
Si fra un gruppu e nautru,
mi fermu pi pigghiari ciatu,
e viu tuttu lu munnu
chinu di genti
annirvati, dispirati, cunfusi,
chi comu a mia,
cu li senzi avviluti,
sciogghinu o ‘mpirugghianu
li gruppa chiossai.
C’è cu vagna la corda
‘nta l’acqua biniditta,
spirannu chi s’allenta
dunn’è trincata stritta;
c’è cu usa li denti e l’ugna;
cu rabbia e pugna.
Ma si li irita accroccanu
prima di sgrupparli tutti,
e li manu perdinu la grinta,
resti davanti a la corda aggruppata sula,
e un gruppu grossu,
‘mpintu ‘nta la gula!…..
I Untangle Knots
After waiting an eternity
to be born, I came into the world,
bound and entangled
with many knotted ropes.
I’ve been untangling knots
And after nearly more than sixty years
I’m still not done.
Not only….If between
one knot and the next one
I stop to catch my breath,
exhausted and all sweaty,
I look around
and see the whole world,
full of people
who are desperate,
nervous and confused,
who just like me,
with their numbed senses
untangle and entangle
more and more knots.
Some people soak the ropes
in holy water,
hoping to loosen up the part
where it’s more tightly wound;
some use their nails and teeth;
others in anger strike at them with blows.
But if your fingers fail
before untangling every knot,
and your hands lose their strength,
you’re left before the rope
now knotted in one large knot
stuck in your throat.