Issue > Poetry
Todd Portnowitz

Todd Portnowitz

Chandra Livia Candiani was born in Milan in 1952. She is a translator of Buddhist texts and an instructor of courses in meditation. She has published five collections of poetry, the latest of which are La bambina pugile ovvero la precisione dell'amore (Einaudi 2014) and Fatti vivo (Einaudi 2017). She regularly holds poetry workshops in elementary schools, nursing homes, and for the homeless. Her work has yet to appear in English. 

Todd Portnowitz is the translator of Midnight in Spoleto by Paolo Valesio (Fomite, 2018) and of Long Live Latin by Nicola Gardini, forthcoming in October from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and is a recipient of the Raiziss/de Palchi Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. An assistant editor with Alfred A. Knopf, he is a co-founder of the Italian poetry journal Formavera and of the Brooklyn-based reading series for writer-translators, Us&Them

Front Door

(Translated from the Italian)

I open and close
introductions and pivots
those who enter
won't leave the same:
phone calls deaths
illnesses loves
turn them into
household heroes.
A ticking heart,
that's me,
unseen and unapparent
I divide and unite
the science of doors.


(Translated from the Italian)


We are between
we are where,
one opens the daily mail
says one's hellos
goodbyes, the usual
well-wishes, forever dozing
under the headlong footsteps
of before or after.
Old age trips
and drops its youth
sheds its skin
sows bloody days
and unaltered centuries
of saltless moments.
We are the slit
between time and space
deep clean cut
we spend our sleep
trampled by the ascending
and descending coffins
and cradles mornings and nights
savage and impenetrable
the stairway's witnesses:
we echo in silence
with the trickling fear
of passages.


Gray stone
tells not of the mountain
but of the wind under shoes
you see, it keeps stirring
and sleep comes only in fits
populated by the ghosts
of the golden dreams of these
downhillers and indomitable
sleepwalking on the thread
between death and death.
And soap
and brush.


We rain from walls,
notes fallen to the earth,
seeds of open spaces,
we are and we aren't
earthly brothers
to the guardians of the most invisible
thresholds. We stand guard
over endless thankless
footsteps, we're the shoulders
of happy trapeze artists
swinging nowhere,
watch us
as we sleep.
Here on our shoulders
is the sweetest spot
to lean
and dream of a world
without sign or symbol,
placid vision.


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