March 25th, 2008

Dead Language

Retaining walls made of volcanic tuffa have drainage openings, into which passersby often stuff trash, rather than disrespectfully throwing it to the ground. When the winter rains come, narrow roads leading down the mountain become small-scale whitewater torrents that carry detritus to the sea. Winter rains linger. A huge low pressure area gets stalled directly over Napoli and remains in place, slowly churning clouds counter-clockwise, week after week, until you doubt spring will ever arrive. You stare out the window, looking for a break in the overcast, some hint of change. Nope. Not today.

Here a woman on her knees gives to a standing man a child, perhaps her own. An abandonment, a betrayal. Iacta alea est.

Above the scene of abandonment, a shining star moves through the firmament, and an angel’s banner says glory in Latin. Sic transit gloria mundi.

I retreat into intellectualism whenever I encounter something that has deep personal significance. I find it easy to hide behind Latin, a supposedly dead language. You see, I want you to know something important about me. But then on the other hand I don’t.

(no subject)

Apparently they found this ancient artifact in a manger in the village of Casamicciola.

Everyone on the island knows what the politicians do in the dark of night, but out of respect they never talk about it. Who am I to break the silence?

Not too long ago a man in America asked me to give his daughter a tour of Ischia when she visited on her holiday, and of course I agreed. We had espresso at a café at Ischia Porto and I said we could either go east, to see the castle at Ischia Ponte, or west to see the artifacts in the archeological museum in Lacco. She chose west. After the museum tour I suggested we hike to the top of Punta Caruso, where we’d get a great view of Forio, my home village. She said, sure. When we came to this quiet, deserted trail in the woods, I suddenly realized the girl was very frightened. I said don’t worry. We’ll be back to civilization very soon. She laughed nervously.

At the base of Punta Caruso is a cave that once was someone’s home. Nowadays, men in their mid-30s who still live with their parents take their girlfriends to places like this. For a little privacy. They bring a picnic lunch. At sunset they build a fire. Hold hands. Listen to the whispers of the ghosts of ancient hermits.