Patrick McGuinness’s ‘House Clearance’ in Dialèt Bresà

Today I have decided to translate a recent poem from English into my native dialect – el Dialèt Bresà, a non-standard variety of Italo-romance. This poem is entitled ‘House Clearance’, and is taken from Patrick McGuinness’s collection Jilted City (Carcanet, 2010).

Jilted City

There already exists an Italian translation of this collection, entitled L’Età della sedia vuota (trans. by Giorgia Sensi, Il Ponte del Sale, 2011).


In my local language, Bresà, as well as in other local languages of Lombardy and Emilia, we use a strange expression to say that we are moving houses, “fa San Martì” (‘fare San Martino’), “to play St Martin”? But why? Wikipedia provides a tentative answer to this tricky question. In any case, it was impossible to resist the charms of this mysterious idiomatic expression. The title, ‘House Clearance’ had to become ‘San Martì’, which surely evokes the clearance of houses, at least to all Bresà speakers…

Download Audio file here

Clicca qui per ascoltare l’audio

San Martì


Gira la ciàf: vàrda ’l vöt come ’l crès
’ndel vègner déter; èl tò èser ché somea finamai che l’engrandìses

enfin a ’mpinìser el curidùr d’ena fermentasiù empalàda
che en po’ te disturbét, e en po’ té aumentét ’ndel müit. Pasa

sota ’n otra porta, en purtù d’aria rimestada,
làsa stà le stanse de ché e chèle de là e va zò dàle scale,

co le tò scarpe che smöf sö la polver en pertöt
en tancc culpití. Te se dré a caminà sot’acqua,

ne scanafòs le sciòpa sòta i tò pè; prima te somèa de negàt
ma chèl che te saltà ’ndel cò, end’ ena

sbrofàda de gris, l’è mia la tò vita, ma chèla dei òter.
Fa mia niènt se te rìet mia a respirà – l’è sèmper

stada scé che déter: finamai ’l niènt l’è spes come ‘n stras che asorbe
e le fùrme dei tò i è finie en pertöt come ’l enciòster, la möfa, l’ümit,

el profìl d’ena persùna desegnàt cole baline de naftalina e i mes-
ricordi. La mobilia la me somea a dèi fantasmi sota chèi lensöi

envece le fotografíe che le ghè piö i è amò töte lè, desegnàde
da na curnìs de spurc sö quàder de mür che adès i è bianc come n’os

squarciàt sota la pèl. Te ghé sìret te en töte.
Adès envece te sét l’ültima fiamada ’nd’el föc:
l’Amleto ’ndel sò teatrì de ombrée, e le sò bràse ai tò pé.

House Clearance 

From Jilted City by Patrick McGuinness

Original English Version

Turn the key: note how the emptiness accumulates
as you come in; how by being here at all you seem to add to it,

until it fills the corridor with that fermented stasis
you both disturb and add to as you move. Pass

through a second door, a portal of stirred air,
ignore the rooms to left and right and take the stairs,

your shoes dislodging dust that billows
up in tiny detonations. You’re walking underwater,

the silt explodes beneath your feet; at first you think you’ll drown
but what’s flashing through your mind in one

slow-motion scattering of greys is not your own life but theirs.
No matter that you still can’t breathe – that’s how it’s always

been in here: even the nothingness is thick as blotting paper
on which their shapes have spread like ink – must, damp,

the outline of a body sketched in mothballs and almost-
memory. The furniture is ghostly beneath the sheets

but the missing pictures are still there, outlined
in frames of dirt on squares of wall now white as bone

surprised beneath the skin. You were in every one of them.
Now you’re the last flame in the grate:
Hamlet in his theatre of shadows, their embers at your feet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s