Letter from Rome

Text: Donatella Della Ratta

Illustration: Massimiliano Amati

Donatella Della Ratta is a journalist, writer, curator and founder of the online platform SyriaUntold. She specializes in media and culture from the Arab-speaking world and curated several international art exhibitions and film series. In 2018, her essay collection Shooting a Revolution: Visual Media and Warfare in Syria (Pluto Press) was published. Donatella Della Ratta is a professor at John Cabot University in Rome and one of the co-creators of Read My World 2020.

Massimiliano Amati, aka Re delle Aringhe, was born in southern Italy in 1979. He obtained a PhD in architecture theory in Rome and since he was a child he continues to draw freehand.


That my love gets to you as a rough draft

I can’t ignore writing after March twentytwenty. Before March twentytwenty I was a reactive body, flammable. A body that loved, a body with feet firmly planted, a body for which love is tactile. All of my love, not just sexual love.

After March twentytwenty I carry my body around with me. Here is an account. It is a fragment, a rough draft of my body among other bodies, of my body that fights to stay humid in this world that’s becoming so dry. I carried my body around aware that, the very moment it would arrive in these desolate and deserted public places, it would begin, little by little to withdraw against my will, to shrink, to retreat.

I fought desperately, during this spring twentytwenty, against this reduction, against this dryness. This is my fight report. Maybe this will be my defeat, documented play by play, the loss of what I cherished most in my past life: humidity.

The social body aka the social cadaver

The social body is on the ground. I set myself the task of reanimating it.

I spit on my palms because a bit of liquid doesn’t hurt in awaking from dryness. I wear red leather gloves. I massage the red saliva into the red hands of the motionless cadaver and think: this isn’t necrophilia, it’s just a heroic/erotic gesture.

I move closer and with red fingers pinch the nose. I take a salubrious breath, one two three, and I blow air into the mouth. I push hard, whimsically, angrily. The cadaver’s chest expands, returns to rest.

I move even closer. I pass my tongue under the teeth, one by one, as if to shine them. I penetrate the cadaver’s oral cavity decisively with my tongue, moving it in order to rummage the mucous membrane, to capture moisture.

The social cadaver shudders.

The heroic/erotic gesture is complete. My red gloves emerge unscathed, sterile.

Foreign body

When the afternoon sun is coming to a close— a bridge. It appears lopsided, gaunt, its essential legs barely holding it up. Something draws me to it, I have to pedal faster to meet this dryness, this uncertainty. It seems abandoned, it seems like human touch hasn’t existed for centuries. I only see the imprint of the warm light that is about to descend into the sunset. It is before me, this desolation. Lopsided, half-lighted.

I pedal just once more, I move closer. Now even the light that cleaves through is closer, actually, it is the only certainty of this meeting. This light has a heat, I open my mouth to swallow it whole in one obscene gesture.

It seems like something should happen, while I swallow this scalding gulp down.

Or it will be the night that swallows me…

Or it will be the body that trips itself up, gets caught in the mechanism, remains in the cogs…

I go to meet it. Something tells me that I have to let it happen, to avoid braking, to let gravity run its course.

I go to meet it on this gaunt bridge that is barely standing.

I don’t think that it’s so disgusting. Or better yet, I think that it being disgusting will be exciting. I think of which of my parts to activate first. Instinctively, I stick out a finger, grab on to something certain to be humid, dip it into something certain to be humid. I immerse my finger in this humidity, I pull out something organic. My whole mouth is so full of the gulp, I let fall, little by little, saliva that drips slowly, it stops near the foreign body and encircles it. It begins softly, with a delicate lubrification so that the lopsided bridge barely sways. Little by little it revives, everything takes consistency and trust.

I carefully stretch out my body on the bridge, I do it so my anal orifice lines up perfectly with the cold uneven surface. The contact excites. The uncertainty excites.

I look at the face of the foreign body, struck down by the afternoon light that by now has turned into a sunset. It becomes increasingly heavy and voluptuous. It becomes increasingly invasive and demanding.

I wait for that one decisive move, without too much hesitation, without delays without preliminary thoughts affections preambles scams, but in one sure careless shot, it falls on me, invades me. The impact gives me pleasure. Due to the violence of the blow, the already shaky lopsided bridge collapses in a thousand pieces, along with my liquids, along with my certainties.

To enter the foreign body is the calamity of the century.

At least I won’t die in dryness.

Donatella Della Ratta

Translation: Allison Grimaldi Donahue

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