The Search for a Home

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With New Orleans being gobbled up by the Giant Evil Gentrification Machine—first it was condos, now it’s airBnB and VRBO–regular working folks are wondering how to hang on. Everyone I know is in panic mode about rising rents, so I thought it was a good time to share this poem by Pier Paolo Pasolini. His poem, “The Search For a Home” describes that feeling we all get looking at Craigslist ads for $1500 rentals:  I just want someplace to call home.

Pasolini was better known as a filmmaker. He also wrote poetry and prose. He struggled all of his life, worked as a clerk and as a teacher. Some of my favorite Pasolini poems are the ones describing his bus rides to work, looking out the window, daydreaming, whining about being a poet having to go to work as a clerk. Due to his involvement with the Communist party, and his rejection of mainstream religion, he found it hard to get work and was often censored. He faced prejudice because of his homosexuality from everyone—including the Communists. These poems were written after he was kicked out of the Italian Communist party for being gay.  (sometime in the late 1940s, early 1950s.)  Born in 1922, in Bologna, Italy, he was murdered outside of Rome in 1975. His murder remains unsolved.

If you can read Italian, the poems in their original language are strikingly beautiful. My second choice would be the translations by Ferlinghetti & Valenta. (Other translations are disappointing. Perhaps because Ferlinghetti is also a poet, he grasps the rhythm, spirit and beauty of Pasolini’s verses—the soul.) Roman Poems, one of City Lights’ marvelous Pocket Poets Series, has the poems in both languages.

The best poetry is eternal.  Blacklisted in 1950s Rome—or too broke to pay the skyrocketing rents in 2015’s new New Orleans—the feeling is the same.

The Search For a Home

I’m searching for the house where I’ll be buried,

wandering around the city like an inmate

of a poorhouse or rest home out on a pass


with a face baked by fever,

dry white skin and beard,

Oh god, yes, someone else is responsible


for the choice. But this dull

upsetting day of forbidden life

with a sunset blacker than dawn,


throws me into the streets of the enemy city

to look for a house that I no longer want.

The work of anguish has succeeded.


If this last youthful reaction

has meaning, wrapping the heart in paper,

let’s see: what is there today wasn’t there


yesterday? Every day my anxiety is higher,

every day the grief more mortal.

Today more than yesterday terror exalts me. . .


To me this part of the city always seemed joyful

but now is just horror and nothing more.

It seemed somewhat working class, good enough


to walk around in unknown, vast to

the point of seeming a city of the future.

And here a “Tobacco Shop,” there “Bread and Pasta.”


Here the face of a little bourgeois, dark

body-hair and an all-white soul

like the skin of an egg, neither tender nor hard. . .


Crazy! He and his fathers who vainly

Have made it into the clique, fat servants

of dried-up adventurers from the Padana plains.


And who are you, I’d really like to see you,

you planners of these dumps

built out of selfishness, for people without nerves


who install their children and old women

as if for a secret consecration:

no eyes, no mouths, no ears,


only that winking blessing,

and here are the Fascist fortresses, made with the cement

of pissoirs, here the thousand identical


luxury buildings for executives

transubstantied with marble pediments,

hard status symbols, equivalent solidities.


And where then to find my studio, calm

and lively, the “dreamt-of nest of my poems”

which I cherish in my heart like a Pascoli psalm?


One whom the police won’t grant

a passport—and at the same time

the newspaper, which should be the seat


of his real life, doesn’t value

his verses, and censors them.

He’s the one who’s called a man without faith


who doesn’t conform and doesn’t renounce.

Thus it’s right he can’t find anywhere to live.

Life gets tired of those who endure.


Ah, my recidivist passions

forced not to have a dwelling!

Flying to eternal summery lands


I’ll fill out the forms of the world:

“without fixed residence.” It’s Truth

that clears the way. I feel its endless patience


under my atrocious anxiety.

I could also play the part of the crazy, angry man. . .

Just to live!  The will to survive requires


fictions which confirm

every act of being. The house

I’m looking for will be —why not? —a basement


an attic, a dump in Mombassa,

or an atelier in Paris. . . I could

also return to that stupendous phase


of painting. . . I already smell the five or six

colors I love, sharp perfume

between the turpentine and the glue


of the frames just made. . .I already feel

the silent spasm in my throat

of technical intuitions, trash


of the old school, marvelously made new.

And in the cornea, red on red

on other reds, in glorious glazes


where the flame is a summit

of the Apennines, or the heat of youths

in Friuli who piss in a ditch


singing in the dusk of the poor. . .

One day perhaps I’ll be grateful to you

for this poor strength that rejuvenates me,


you conformists, with hearts deformed

not by the brutality of your capital

but by the heart of itself, because it has


yielded to evil in other times.

Heart of man which I can no longer,

as a man, either love or judge,


forced as I am down here,

at the bottom of the world, to feel different,

lost to every youthful love.


Pier Paolo Pasolini

1950s, Rome

translated from the original Italian by Lawrence Ferlinghetti & Francesa Valente

Roman Poems, Pier Paolo Pasolini

© 1986 by City Lights Books

Pocket Poets Series No. 41

San Francisco, CA

Roman Poems  by Pier Paolo Pasolini   1986

Who Killed Pasolini?    1995 film

Pier Paolo Pasolini,  IMDB Biography


Photo Credit:  “Pasolini”, theeveningclassblog:


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