‘The Novelist Elena Ferrante’
by Bella Li

For instance, in Ischia. Those dark corners where the sound does not…

I had in my mind cries, crude family acts of violence I had witnessed as a child, domestic objects. For instance, in Ischia. Those dark corners where the sound does not. But I remembered them that way and only that way do they appear. In each retelling, in the manner of chiaroscuro: stones shearing off the roofs of houses at sundown. Hunting the particularity, the moment, seen so closely from afar. Down the lanes, always in the company of a shadow, a woman, a cleaver. Always closer than before. These slow dances from doorway to doorway – these particular doorways, these particular lanes. My sister – a girl then – clear, cleaving to the shadows, and once. Once we ran from house to house in the dark, calling names, falling and our knees grazed. Dresses stained. Those stones at sundown. Later, in the living room, crowding into corners, watching the walls shake – yellow paper peeling slowly, vertically, folding down in great, wide strips. These days and nights of blood. Clear voices, and distinct, the taste of something metallic. In the corner the broken lamp. The television (silent) in the background.


‘The Novelist Elena Ferrante’ was published in ‘Argosy’, winner of the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry. The poem was previously published in Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry (Hunter Publishers, 2016).

You can read interviews with Bella about ‘Argosy’ with some Melbourne-based literary journals  on The Suburban Review website or Peril website.