Prisms, memories and hurricanes

From my book on Robin Williams, I’m translating it into English and this is a text i already posted on the blog in Italian. You can find it here. He influenced my way of thinking, my principles and the way in which I (try to) live my life much more than I can say. One of the people I admire (and love) most in the world.

We all know we have endless worlds inside. We love and admire most those people who unhinge our certainties, undermine clichés and cannot be forced to fit into any box. People who are full of contradictions and yet always true to themselves, multifaceted prisms that shimmer with lights of so many different colors depending on the place and time from which you are looking, and yet recompose themselves to form an indivisible whole.

It’s funny, then, that we insist nonetheless on putting these people, sooner or later, into some sort of category. Even more than others, perhaps, as we are fascinated but also somewhat afraid, worried, even a bit annoyed: as hard as we try, the unusual, the uncommon throws us off balance and therefore often gets under our skin; if we like someone, we try to bring them back to a sort of universal harmony, or at least, to our personal sense of harmony: he was one of us after all, the rich also cry, the sad clown, the depression of comedians, the dark side of fame. You smiled whenever you noticed these attempts, and walked your own path without a hint of anger – just a note of bitterness sometimes – and without letting yourself be changed.

It’s as if we liked to dishevel our world for a while, just for the sake of it, sure that the world will be soon restored. The wind can blow through our hair, provided it does not ruffle us up too much and does not make us fly. But when they are real, and not just appearance, these people are hurricanes, sweet and gentle, maybe, but hurricanes nonetheless, and you don’t take a hurricane in hand. We should just wish we are there when they come through, accept the upheaval they leave behind and not try to change their direction or movement, it’s perfect as it is, with all its illogicality, or rather, because of its illogicality, better still, because it follows an unusual logic.

Almost all of us have experienced the cruel fury of life against those who deserve it least, injustice hurts, and hurts badly, it makes us think that there must be some form of higher justice and if there isn’t, it should be invented. Many have had to deal with this sooner or later, but still I can’t accept that one of the most brilliant, generous, unconventional, tactful, kind, humble, gentle and unselfish men in the world had to face what is perhaps the worst fate one can suffer: losing your memory and your reason piece by piece (and the control over your body) and be aware of it.

With each detail added, I realize more and more that not only you were unique and special (we all are, in our own way), but that you’ve been able not to set a boundary to that uniqueness. Your greatness is so much more precious because it must be looked for, unveiled in a way: we can guess it, but it is not obvious.

Known for being kind in a town that has made a hallmark of kindness; known for being a genius in a performing arts school that accepted only the best; known for being a support and an important presence for your colleagues and for anyone else in a world in which the rule seems to be mors tua, vita mea. Known by whom, though? By those who make research, who listen to the small stories of “common” people, who are never common anyway, and certainly not in your eyes: the people who sold you bicycles, those who knew someone in the children’s hospitals where you would suddenly appear without telling anyone in advance. We shouldn’t read the words spoken immediately after your death, on the spur of the moment, guided by shock and maybe a desire to be in the limelight for a bit, but rather those said after some time, when a chance association stems from a sudden memory, and emotion takes a friend by surprise.

So, for all the pain and injustice that sometimes stir inside me like furies, I’m thinking that I’m glad you gave your wife a special day to tell her goodbye and decided to die while that goodbye was still in your eyes and in your heart. I’m glad that you were not unhappy at all, as we would have selfishly wished, maybe: that way, we wouldn’t have had to blame you for a decision which, on the other hand, was only yours (although for some form of morality I don’t understand, we should not be allowed to die until unhappiness and pain have entirely consumed us and the people near us). And there was more: perhaps, in our heart, many of us wished to make you happy, and it was easier to think no one else could do that. Although you suffered from depression at some point, it wasn’t the reason of your decision.

I’m glad you kept the spark of madness you had chosen yourself, and not the one that your disease would have forced into you, glad that you decided to die entire, while you were alive, without letting any form of constriction clutch at you, not even death itself. I’m glad (the word glad may sound odd in this context, but I know you would understand, and this is all what matters to me) that you kept until the last moment your limitless ability to think of others before yourself and take care of them, which was, in the end, the basis of all that zest for life that, whatever they say, you have always had and transmitted. Have no doubt, you were right to hang on to the memories you had left, prevent them from being deleted, before or after that day, because if you lose those, what’s left to desire, what dreams may come? Ah, your memory, your prodigious memory, by which you remembered the lines of every show and the name of anyone who passed you in the street, the memory you managed to preserve, as far as possible, to make it part of the way in which those who remain can remember. Only your strength of spirit was bigger than you memory, which made you hope against hope, for the sake of those you loved, that a different end was possible. But when it became clear that this was not the case, you took that love and all your courage, which wasn’t small, it was a heavy weight to carry too, but you didn’t think about it too long, you bundled it up in a bag like those of the wanderers of ancient times and walked away, leaving behind the best part of all you had given and received.

You are “my” hurricane, my love, let me call you that once again, in spite of everything, I wish you knew how important it was for me to be there while you passed by, to see you and try to understand you, just that, nothing more, so as to understand myself, collect the endless number of memories you’ve left behind and thus try not to lose my own memory. There are many ways to meet. My research is not finished yet. I’m still here.

Tra nuvole e marciapiedi / Between clouds and sidewalks

Quando sarà che ho fatto l’ultimo giro in giostra?
E’ così tanto tempo che neppure più ricordo
il colore e la forma, o in che giardino mi trovavo.
Abito qui, ora, tra nuvole e marciapiedi,
volo tra i rami degli ulivi e ridiscendo a volte
per l’occasionale dolcezza dei lamponi;
ho traslocato da poco e forse
non sarà l’ultima volta che succede.
Faccio ancora castelli che viaggiano sull’aria,
i miei occhi sono sempre ben aperti quando sogno
e lancio ancora piccoli sassi dentro il mare,
ch’è il mio modo di rompere la quiete
per riaggiustarla dopo a cose fatte;
ma non penso più che sia la spiaggia l’importante,
solo qualche granello ogni tanto, o qualche fiore
dimenticato tra le sdraio alla fine del tramonto.
Ho anche riordinato un poco le mie cose,
lo spazio l’ho trovato gettando via i rimpianti.
La nostalgia no, ché può sempre venir bene:
sta a portata di mano in un cassetto semi-chiuso;
e poi non pensare ch’io non viva,
ho da stendere i panni e far le lavatrici,
ho figli e tastiere e giorni d’incastri e gambe stanche,
e un gatto che s’arrotola in improbabili pose nella cesta;
ho tempo per amare e prendo anche il raffreddore,
ma tengo un sole di riserva nella tasca
per qualche anomala stagione delle piogge.
Però ti prego, accarezza ancora dolcemente
le semicancellate linee dei miei fragili confini
perché svaniscano del tutto sotto le tue dita.
S’intersecano i tuoi passi disallineati
sui duri solchi delle mie pietre natali
creando quel mosaico di molteplici percorsi
tra le tue personali vie dei canti e i miei colori.
So cosa diresti di queste brecce offese,
delle crepe nei muri che esplodono
crollando in polvere inflessibile,
di queste nebbie che screpolano il cielo.
Si scioglierebbe ancora in parole la tua faccia
e riconoscerei tra mille quella smorfia ferita
che spegnerebbe i tuoi occhi appena un attimo prima
che l’illumini la compassione un’altra volta,
lo sprazzo del tuo fulmineo riso
ad inventarci una bellezza temporanea ed infinita
nascosta tra gli anfratti della nostra pelle stanca.
Per questo mi accoccolo tra i tuoi pensieri
e ti ritrovo, come sempre, dentro i miei.

Wall crack (original image on

Crack in the Wall by Lokiev

When was I last on a merry-go-round?
It’s been so long I don’t even remember
the colour and shape, or the garden I was in.
I live here now, between clouds and sidewalks,
I fly through olive branches and come down at times
for the occasional sweetness of raspberries;
it’s not long since I’ve moved house, and perhaps
it won’t be the last time either.
I still make castles and have them travel in the air,
my eyes are always wide open when I dream
and I still throw pebbles into the sea,
it’s my way to break the quiet to then fix it late in the day;
but I no longer think that it’s the beach that counts,
only some grains, now and then, or some flower
forgotten among the loungers at the end of sunset.
I’ve also tidied up my things a little bit,
I’ve made room by throwing regrets away.
Not longing, though, as it can always come in handy
It’s at my fingertips, in a drawer that I keep ajar;
and then, don’t you think I’m not living,
I’ve got to do my wash and hang the laundry out to dry
I’ve got children, and keyboards,
days with so much to wedge in, and legs that hurt
and a cat that rolls up in unlikely positions in his basket;
I’ve got time to love and sometimes catch a cold
but keep a spare sun in my pocket
for some unexpected rainy season.
But please, keep fingering with your sweetness
the semi-deleted lines of my fragile boundaries
so they will melt completely at your touch.
Your out-of-line footprints cross at times
the unyielding groove in my native stones
and create that mosaic of multiple paths
with your personal songlines and my colours.
I know what you’d say of these injured breaches,
of the cracks in the walls that blow up and collapse
into an inflexible dust,
of these fogs that chap the sky.
Your face would break up in words once again
and anywhere would I recognize that hurt frown
that would turn off your eyes just before
they’re lightened up by compassion once again,
the spark of your lightning-quick laugh
that would invent for us a temporary beauty without end
hidden in the clefts of our weary skin.
that’s why I nestle into your thoughts
and find you, as always, within mine.