Culloden Moor

At last they met. No sound. Arrays deployed.
It was the perfect day—no haze, no shine.
Long minutes lapsed before the bagpipes trilled.

By noon it all ran smooth. Forlorn and void.
No banner waved. No circle stood. No line.
With peace and level smoke the field was filled.

first published in Poetry Salzburg Review (Austria)



Dazzled, dazed, remote ashore,
crests increase as Mistral falls.

Ancient names of winds resound,
sunken wrecks emerge and sail.

Watery pupils rove at sea,
sundown-shimmer swept away.

Boyhood days flash back to stay,
present ones run on then flee.

Pictures mingle turning pale,
some stand out and hang around:

children, sand tracks, cyclist balls*,
just like forty years before.

first published in Italian Americana (USA)

*”cyclist balls” is an Italian beach game: children shape tracks on the sand and throw plastic balls (the size of golf balls) along them, to imitate a cycling race.



In the Wake Of Columbus

They have been teaching me all that it takes
to stand the ride, go far and make it worth
the strain and pain of often being alone
since when I was a toddling feeble child,
before I even learned to say my name.
No special skills but open-mindedness,
then wisdom, brawn and hunger most of all
I should have always brought along with me
wherever I would later find myself:
across dry land, at sea, above the clouds.
A boy adrift in tales of any kind,
I fell in love with depths of earth and space,
devouring books by London, Verne and Clarke,
afraid that water may have stayed a dream,
for early nightmares can be hardly killed.
Such fear turned out to be completely wrong
and soon I mastered tempests, whirls and streams,
as sure as I’d been taming peaks and stars,
aware of how real life can merge with dreams
until a day—a man—it all cleared up,
and I could easily tell the two apart:
undoubtful, reckless, restless, smart, secure.
Meanwhile I had embraced new ways to try
to conquer freedom looking for some place,
to understand the how and when and why,
by turning from the grandly vast or far
to what is hugely small and inly close.
My latest heroes Heisenberg and Bohr
had flung me through uncertainty and chance,
my novel trips had scattered me among
transparent leptons matching colored quarks,
elusive bosons, steadfast fermions, strings,
then deeper in and out till back to start:
Big Bang, inflation, cooling down, collapse?
Lemaître, Friedmann, Bondi, Penrose, Guth.
So long a journey just to go nowhere,
to come full circle time and time again,
as nothing is the way I thought it was!
I now realize that every quest is vain,
there’s none to blindly trust or give in to,
but each and all to probe and sample from.
If born to voyage, what I’m left to choose
is only by which means, and never where,
for what, how long or in how many stops.
In all these years I’ve walked, I’ve run, I’ve climbed,
I’ve flown on airplanes, rockets, astral arks,
but first and foremost I have crossed the seas.
I’ve been commander, sailor, deck boy, slave,
from port to port around the globe and back,
then further off, on every kind of ship.
And since nobody can be really free,
for either dice or given laws do rule,
on top of foamy crests I want to be,
forever over such unboundedness:
unmarked and level, absolutely plain.
I’ve had enough of roads and charted routes,
of flying paths as well as mental ones,
of all that’s certain, proven, set and safe.
I want to sail, reach out, explore, get lost,
my eyes already searching for beyond.
Just like Columbus did—no less, no more.

first published in New Contrast (South Africa)


Alessio Zanelli is an Italian poet who writes in English and whose work has appeared in about 150 journals from 13 countries. He has published 4 full collections to date, most recently Over Misty Plains (Indigo Dreams, UK, 2012).

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6 Responses

  1. Michael Dashiell

    i like the leading poem, excellently written. If I recall accurately, it was used by Keats as a rhyme scheme in a larger stanza. I’ve it this way too, but not separately. Do you know it’s literary name?

    • Alessio

      Sorry for the delay, I think the pattern ABC ABC (DEF DEF …) has been widely used in poetry, but as far as I know it doesn’t have a particular name.
      Thank you for your kind remark.
      Alessio Zanelli

  2. Ruth Asch

    These three poems have a remarkable common thread – they are all about the inner space, the recollective spirit, especially at that point where it comes in contact with the most wild and vivid moments of physical or intellectual life.
    The first poem treats of a battle, yet all its descriptors are tranquil: even the bagpipes known for their raucous cry, ‘trill’ here. We have two stanzas, two scenes, of calm – yet what a difference between them! The one full of readiness, anticipation, self-possession, even hope; the second a desolation. Physically the mood is identical, spiritually nothing could be more different.
    In the next poem we see, with the eyes of both the body and mind, colourful, shifting memories and associations of a man gazing out to sea; a dramatic conflux of shipwrecks, sea-spray and toys – all gathered in the nostalgic musing of a quiet man.
    ‘Columbus’ leads one into slight confusion since the eponymous character is not its protagonist and does not appear until the end; but meanwhile one journeys with the speaker a hundred journeys, around the globe and around the mental sphere mapped out by intellectual explorers of the centuries. It is a vast scope and even ventures into the minutiae of existence, the particles which make up our being – yet in the end, though an endless freedom to journey is the speaker’s choice, this explorer’s spirit makes that choice in a moment of recollection, of self-knowledge, of detached consideration and distinction from the wild journeys which are possible, but never in themselves satisfactory, in this world.
    An intriguing, invigorating, thought provoking trio which I am glad to have read.

    • Alessio

      After such a huge delay in responding, I can only thank you for your insightful remarks about my poems.
      They’re all formal without any break in the chosen patterns, so it took me some time to come up with their definitive versions, especially the long one, but my favorite is “Culloden Moor”.
      Alessio Zanelli

  3. James Sale

    Very powerful poems; great sense of form; and a concision that makes the ideas all the more telling. Well done – wonderful stuff.


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