Rome, April 2004, 6 am. A cold but bright morning. I am sitting in my terrace, looking at the Roman rooftops. It’s almost dawn and I’m cold. I had two sisters and 8 female first cousins,you know, and I met him at 3. He therefore became my eldest brother.
My Eldest Brother
I’ve heard him on the phone last night, after many years of silence. So now on the first shred of paper I’ve found I’m quickly jotting down, here on my terrace, the words I got in my head before I forget them.
Words thrown spontaneously – and a bit wild too, perhaps.
1950s-1960s remote, antediluvian stuff?
God knows. We lived in immediate post-war Italy, a different world altogether. Judge for yourself.
To My Eldest Brother
My friend, companion of happy adventures
during the prime of life,
at 6 am in a Roman morning,
a cold breeze running over the rooftops
of a pagan city,
you, companion and brother,
I come to celebrate
as in an ancient rite,
a pencil splashing words
on a page, rapidly,
words alive, unlaboured.
You taught me to enjoy this life,
its primordial side and strength;
I, more fearful,
brought up in a world of women,
the manly ways
by you was taught,
the male attributes, or nuts,
you always had,
and have: do not forget!
Oh fuck, male attributes,
may the Lord be thanked!
In a world
full of empty jaded phony people,
you were example, always,
friend and brother,
of strength and courage,
more than my father was.
You – and my mother’s brothers,
so dear and much beloved.
My father, though,
who meant a lot to me,
from him I took a few things.
But you were vast to me.
One more year is a lot
when one is a child,
A primacy, it establishes,
I’ve always recognized you.
Here, now, on this small terrace
facing the city of Rome,
in front of the ancient temples
of our primeval culture,
I you honour, brother,
I you celebrate, my friend,
that primacy still recognizing
that wasn’t only of age.
At this point red wine I’d drink
(but it’s early in the morning…)
the full-bodied red, Tuscan wine
of our wonderful winter evenings
(in our Arezzo countryside: do you recall?)
when, meat roasted over embers,
the Dionysian pleasures
of meat and wine you did deliver
and of the women
grabbed by the hair
and gently, strongly,
The breeze is warmer.
and words begin to fail.
I only hope,
my friend & strong companion
& ‘eldest brother’,
to have conveyed you
memories & emotions
during abrupt awakening
after a telephone call.
[Geraldine, a Dubliner blogger, made the translation from the Italian original; I, now (20 oct 2018) totally remade it. This dear Celtic woman is btw not responsible for the four letter word – f@#k, I have decided to use, not her]
Joys (and sorrows) we had in our relationship, but all was lived with exuberance and almost violent intensity.
He had a beautiful house across from mine but when we first met over the wall at 3-4 years of age (I was alone, he with his grandma, a gentle lady as from an old-time painting, ) we did not like each other at all. He looked prissy and too well-groomed to my taste.
Then one day his mother took him to our house for an official visit (the two mums were close friends). Disturbed we were a bit so we began to throw pebbles at a can placed on a stone table at 10 yards from where we were, just to kill moodiness.
The throwing-pebbles-at-a-can thing triggered ALL. We have never left each other since then (apart from a few intervals.) Thing being, our brains knew how to fly together, and we laughed and laughed and we laughed out loud. His mind, odd and humorous, rich with ideas, well connected with mine.
In the picture below I am 18. From then on we had the first break. A long one.
Now that we are old, we feel even closer and there won’t be intervals any more.
It’s this desire we have to stay close at the end of a marvellous adventure we did begin together, in the company also of the loved ones from his side and from my side – who make our life more humane (and who console us of its miseries.)