Caroline Maldonado: The Soil Will Know

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Caroline Maldonado is a poet and translator, living in the UK and Italy. Her poems have appeared in many journals, anthologies and online and have won or been placed in competitions.

Book publications of her own poems and translations from Italian include Your call keeps us awake, poems by Rocco Scotellaro co-translated with Allen Prowle (Smokestack Books 2013); What they say in Avenale, (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2014); Isabella (Smokestack Books 2019) a hybrid of her own poems with translations of the Renaissance poet, Isabella Morra; Liminal (Smokestack Books 2020), winner of the 2019 UK PEN Translates award and Nadir (Smokestack Books 2022) both with poems by Laura Fusco.  Her collection Faultlines is forthcoming with Dempsey & Windle (April 2022).

Isabella was recommended by PBS as one of the five best poetry books translated by women in 2018/19 in their ‘Women in Translation’ initiative in August 2019, commended in University of Warwick’s international cross-genre competition for ‘Women in Translation’ and selected as one of The Morning Star’s Best Poetry collections 2019.

For seven years she chaired the Board of Trustees of Modern Poetry in Translation and recently she curated a selection of Italian poetry for THW:


Caroline Maldonado writes:

This selection is taken from a longer sequence, The soil will know. The sequence relates to my life in rural Italy, where I’ve had a home for nearly twenty years. I am on the edge of a small hilltop village in a rural area with Italian neighbours whose families have lived there for generations. Houses have fallen and been built since I’ve been there. In 2016 there was a major earthquake followed by aftershocks that brought down whole villages, written about in her forthcoming collection, Faultlines, and many are still living in temporary homes. Over the years, large numbers of refugees have arrived on Italian shores and political support for neo-fascist parties has grown, while on a personal level I have benefitted from the extreme kindness and generosity of my neighbours. These and other experiences seem to me to have a wider significance than to this small geographical area and they all feature in my writing.


 Caroline Maldonado: Six Poems from The soil will know



The corridor’s gone where
Quinta (the fifth born)

would line up fresh cheeses
on the unpainted shelves.

Down below we turned stalls
into kitchen. The trough

is stacked with tins of
tomatoes, packets of pasta.

We’ve kept the pig sty
and the cantina for wine.

All Pierino’s tools remain:
wall-hooks hung with metres of

metal wire, hammers, hoes
and harness for the oxen.

You carry back plates from
terrace to house, rooms light up

like New Year fireworks,
one after another, so that from

outside I can see the oak beams
in the old man’s room.

He built this house stone
on stone. It has passed father

to daughter, daughter to son
and now to us, on loan.


While talking to you on the phone
attracted by a flash of wings
I see them darting between
the trees down in the valley

improvising some elaborate dance,
releasing sudden
sprays of gold.
Birds of joy.

The morning sun grows stronger,
their feathers burn brighter
and all the while I’m listening
to you and so I must shift

my attention from second to
second to you, your words,
to them, their flight,
eyes ears eyes ears eyes …


the afternoon wind’s blowing up
with a rush of angry mulberry leaves
a murmur signals a warning from the hills

the house door slams
sun clings to the eastern slopes
fingers slipping

the black cat and her kitten run for cover
three pigeons fly low and fast
a sea of cloud laps closer

drowning town and villages
and advancing on the tractor
half-way across the field

lightning arrows down to Grotaccia
to Oddino’s kitchen garden
down to the tiny striped snail

tucked into the wall’s brickwork
how long will it take
for this dark cloud to shift?


And there’s the African
porcupine we came across
last year along the path
by the mountain lake
when the kiosk was
closed and everyone gone

leaving the animal alone
on its back with its
quills – so exquisitely designed
for its defence – spread out
underneath it like
a rush mat in the dust.

The raised feet I remember.
Pink and padded, five digits
for toes, and four fingers
with a regressed thumb
to grasp a piece of fruit.
In its belly a red hole.


Wolves multiply
in the high forests,

slaughter our livestock.
Nobody can touch them.

We defend our homes
and children with guns.

We chase intruders
back into the sea.

Now is a time of broom,
sunbursts of light

explode in our hills
but wolves are breeding.

Note:  ‘A wolfish time has come, the time of Fascism.’  Vasily Grossman


Today I could hear no birdsong
over the voice
of the wind.

A fox in the shed.
The cats have
run for cover.

Where has the moon escaped to?
Is it hiding, red
and troubled,

in gaps between the houses?
Or is it seeking shelter
in a doorway?

No mauve sky over the treetops.
No moon.
Only darkness

that one day will
blow us away
if the wind doesn’t change.


This land’s inside you.
When its plates shift
your flesh
under your skin.

When they collide
and villages crumble you
like a toddler
and must re-learn
your first steps.

I’ve explored the same
rivers and gullies as you
like you
I shop in Macerata’s market
and drive a Fiat Panda
my home has una bella vista

but when I enter or leave
a church I don’t
cross myself
out of respect for His house
and here I have neighbours
but no relations.

This land’s inside you.
In the end
its soil
will know how
to receive you.

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