Enrico Pea
Ezra Pound,

There were three sons before the lovely peasant girl Cleofe had came down from the hills to work for the Pellegrina family. She ended up in granddad's bed.

Buck can't remember the name of the older son, so he calls him Grumpy. Don Lorenzo, the second, is an abbé, always walks around with his hands in his soutane. The last is the randy grandfather.

When the old goat finally dies, Signora Pellegrina tells the boys to "divide what's left." Then she says: "The clothes I have on are my own. Don't grumble if I wear silk."

Cleofe's appearance in the house changes everything. She was from Terrina. "The women of Terrina go to bed as God made 'em, naked."

    Our house had no curtains, and the rooms are not dark at night. Don Lorenzo saw her naked, white, white, with her legs long. My grandfather seemed like a monster crouched over her, clamped to her belly, looking into her eyes.

    The abbé stood there til the dead came to life, ill augured witness of my mother's procreation."

White, white, with her legs long. This is Pound speaking, no? The poet tells us that Enrico Pea reminds him of "Tom" Hardy. You recall Tom Hardy. Strange people from the midlands, with their strange disheveled ways. With Pea, the brothers are locked up in this cold house, and the maid Cleofe is with child, and the abbé Don Lorenzo thinks of her as the Madonna, "with the child at breast as Mary in the desert of Egypt, followed by Herod. Eyes the colour of Macaboy snuff."

And Buck, telling of his grandfather,

    Middle high, live glance, biblical beard like my own, thick hair shining like filed iron. Face bright and rosy, thick mulatto's lips like a suckling infant's, he talked of life and death, of Dante, love, early grain crops, manures; half shutting and wide opening his eyes as if fixing an image when he got het up over poetry and things of that sort.

And we wonder, is Pound talking of Buck's "grandpop?" Or is he talking about Ezra Pound? Pound always did have some quarrel with individuation, between his writings and his world. And himself.

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At the start of Moscardino, we have some thoughts on Ezra Pound and Enrico Pea by Pound's daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz. She speaks of "the war years," presumably World War II. There is a quote on the back cover of this volume from one of Pound's 1941 "radio speeches," where he speaks with affection of Enrico Pea.

Rachewiltz then writes about "Pound's detention at Saint Elizabeth's." She lists Italian writers who came to his defense and wonders why those writers should "care more about the poet's fate than his compatriots."

Well, mercy me. Have we forgotten so soon? Pound was stuffed away in St. Elizabeth's so he wouldn't have to be hung. His radio talks were made from Rome during the early 1940s on behalf of Benito Mussolini, against Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States, and the Jews.

These radio speeches were, to put it mildly, a disgrace: emotionally, patriotically, and racially.

Mussolini, after all, had a profound influence on Adolf Hitler, was the inspiration for Nazism. Mussolini was, after Stalin, one of the earliest (and craftiest) crafters of the totalitarian state. The Italians didn't hang him upside down, on the streets of Milan, in 1945, because he needed a drying-out. Mussolini was a thug, with thuggish ways. He made the Italian railroads run on time, and killed several hundred thousand Italians, Abyssinians, and Austrians, in the process. This was Pound's hero.

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Be that as it may, Moscardino is a lovely book, printed and bound with grace by Archipelago. And Pound here proves, as he did so long ago in his renderings of Riyuku, that he was a far better translator than poet. He takes Enrico Pea's dark Italian and changes it into lusty Pound-English so that at the funeral of Buck's grandmother, we get to see --- potent vision --- "Don Lorenzo's shoes were laced crooked with twine with mud on the ends of the low knot, and caked round the edge of his soutane, black stockings and silver buckles. He felt the water dripping down his sides from his hair, his face wet with rain and tears."

    The hole swallowed back the loose earth. It looks as if yeast were swelling it up; puffing it over the edges of a garden flowered with paper, cotton, and wire.

--- Susan Franklin, PhD


Dana Lamb
(Classic Adventure/
Long Riders Guild
In 1933, with bare survival provisions and five dollars in their pockets, newlyweds Dana and Ginger Lamb set off to the south. Their 16,000-mile expedition to Panama had begun and they left San Diego in a sixteen-foot canoe they had designed and built themselves.

There were sharks, schools of whales, and encounters with 2,000-pound manta rays. The canoe was wrecked and repaired dozens of times. There were days when they tramped through swamps, through jungles where the inhabitants had never before seen a white person.

Why did they do it? "Our alibis were simple: we had an insatiable curiosity about any place that no one else had been to; and we liked proving to ourselves that we were equal to the handicap presented by a new environment."

At one point, feverish with malaria and facing gale windsm they drifted into shore at a small Oaxaca costal settlement named Punta Duro. They were rescued and nursed back to health by the people of the village. A healer spent nights chanting for them. "We have many reasons for chanting to cure illness," said the curandera.

    It keeps away the evil spirits. It soothes the mind of the listener, and makes it easier for the good spirits to effect a cure. And it is also a prayer ... The "evil spirit" is not a demon, but a part of your spirit, the part of you that is always preoccupied with yourself. When you are ill that spirit takes possession of you and you become fearful; when you are fearful, you cannot become well. By listening to the chant --- even if you sleep --- the mind is occupied. The fear of being alone is banished by the voice as well.

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The Lambs left ancient ruins as they found them, ignored treasures of gold. They were infatuated by the country. "This was the Mexico that we knew and loved, simple, friendly, and unostentatious," Lamb wrote. Appreciation for Mexico and the love of its people were their reward.

They found fermented coconut tree-sap that they prepared for a New Years Eve Celebration. They found the native remedy for malaria to be better than quinine. For lubricating their guns they used rendered deer-marrow. It was superior to store-bought gun oil. They built up immunity to poisons, heat, thirst, hunger, and jungle fever.

    The natives gave us whatever they had that they thought we needed, or wanted [wrote Lamb]. We returned the compliment. Sometimes only one or two people in a village spoke a Spanish of sorts, but that was seldom a bar to communication. Men's needs are similar the world over. We smiled, gestured, and did our share of the work. The entente cordiale was established.

The Lambs soon began to set up medical clinics in remote villages, but they were careful to do it as part of the natural structure of the community. They were careful to respect the ways of those they were helping, channeling their assistance through the curanderas. They were also careful not to introduce methods that went beyond the resources of their benefactors.

I will always want to believe that there are people like Dana and Ginger Lamb --- and their saviors --- out there in the world. Thirty-six years after they drifted into the Oaxaca coast, my wife and I took ill near the same place. Like them we were close to dying, incapable of taking care of ourselves. A so-called "simple" people nursed us, cared for us, cured us ... in truth, saved our lives.

When they returned to the United States, the Lambs wondered about the increasing reluctance and inability of large groups to solve their own problems. They questioned people's growing distaste for economic, social, and political freedom. They had problems with those who to bartered their freedoms for the promise of a "better life."

The Lambs were more impressed with the "primitive society" that they had left behind. And so many years later, following a journey not so distant from their own, my wife and I came to question the same world, wonder about an Americas turned soft and dependent. Like them, we came to value people who many others would refer to as "primitive," and think of this far-off land and its gentle people as part of our own family.

--- Richard Malmed

Ballad of
Another Time

José Luis González
Asa Zatz,

(University of Wisconsin)
Dominga recently married Rosendo, but he snores at night and stays on his side of the bed. Along comes young Tico Santos. They put him to work on the farm, there in the highlands, but he has to sleep alone in the shed.

Sometimes Dominga worries that he is cold at night. When he gets sick, she gives him a poultice without Rosendo's permission. She also nurses him back to health, and then ...

She tells him they have to run away. They go down to the coast. Two days later, Rosendo grabs up his machete, follows on horseback. He finally catches up with them in a hut in Carite, a place loaned to Tico by a friend he met in jail. Rosendo comes with the machete to do justice, a man's justice, a man of the mountains who has been wronged in bed by another peon.

It's an old story, as old as they come ---- vide, the Trojan War --- but like the Iliad (or, better, the Odyssey,) The Ballad of Another Time is told with no small verve. It isn't just a man chasing his wife's supposed seducer (although Dominga, like Helen, was more than just willing). The story of the long journey from the highlands to the low is well twisted about. Tico may be a wife-stealer, but he simply can't get it up.

And the chase just isn't a chase: it's a picaresque journey abounding in con-men and witches and thieves and idiots --- the salt of the earth of Puerto Rico.

González puts together a good story, and, as a good story must, it grows to be filled with inevitability: Tico and Dominga must run because her husband has been wronged in bed, and Rosendo must chase after her to avenge not his heart, but his nuts (he doesn't seem to care for her all that much).

It is picaresque, and there are all those characters, easily identified by a certain touch. The man with the machete, the wife with the broken tooth, the mulatto who looks like a "playful gnome," the plump witch who cooks fritters for the horseman:

    "Do you like old lady's bellies?" the woman asks, suddenly appearing in the doorway. "Gildo likes them heated up."

    He gets to his feet, saying, "You'll have to excuse me, ma'am, but I..."

    "Squash fritters, old lady's bellies. Don't tell me you've never tried them..."

    "To tell you the truth ... no, I never ..."

    "Ay, Virgen!" the woman bursts out laughing, her whole body shaking, especially her huge flabby breasts, the man notes with disgust. "I wonder what you could have been thinking."

--- Carlos Amantea

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