Lessico famigliare/ Family lexicon: Meditation on Multilingualism and Mother Tongues

Here I am remembering  an old poem, written in the 1980’s, (inspired by Natalia Ginzburg’s novel by the same name), brought back to mind  as I was thinking about International Mother Tongue Day, stimulated by the discussion hosted a few days ago  by The Antonym – Bridge to Global Literature.


Lessico famigliare/ Family lexicon


“Statti attenta, be carefulu.”

“Eu i cosi storti ne pozzu vidiri.”

“Ehi, what’s the good word?”

“That is very interesting!”

“Ma vi ch’i ai fari!”

“You have to smile more!  Be positive”

“I cosi vostri i mentunu ai stampi.”


This poem is gonna need a C-section,

The lines don’t wanna come out on their own

A questa poesia dovremo praticare un cesareo

Perchè da soli i versi non ce la fanno proprio ad uscire

Words mixed, words pure,

Accents, dialects, hybrid formations

Misto di parole, parole pure,

Accenti, dialetti, formazioni ibride

Forming thoughts, forming people,

Che formano pensieri, che formano persone,

Worlds mixing, worlds clashing,

Incontri di mondi e scontri di mondi

Forever chasing the possibility

To live wholly in your skin

Like the natives

Sempre all’inseguimento della possibilità

Di poter vivere interamente

Nella propria pelle, come gli autoctoni

Spectator of yourself, you hang like a double

Between time, classes, continents

Forever straddling chasms,

Spettatori di noi stessi, sdoppiati ci sovrastiamo

Su tempo, classi e continenti

Per sempre a cavalcioni delle voragini.


Pina Piccolo, from sometime in the 1980’s.


Cover photo by Melina Piccolo.



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