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Sicily, a poem by David Garyan


photo by Emanuele Ventura



Sicily


For my friends Emanuele and Valentina. Sabbinirica.


Not every bad thing comes to harm you.

—Sicilian proverb


Gazing from the very toe of Italy,

where the monument

of Vittorio Emanuele III

sticks out like an overgrown nail,

Sicily at last reveals herself—

a bride in a matriarchal society,

and still she resists

taking off her veil.

The island is a window

no one cares to look out of,

but stealing a glance inside

is like unlocking your lover’s diary—

no, it’s like picking the lock

of her flat without permission—

knowing she won’t mind.

There are no secrets here,

only mysteries—

if you can simply imagine

theaters without backstages.

And neither are there plans or designs,

only dreams and ideas—

if you can just picture

conductors without rehearsal halls.

Best of all, there are no questions,

only curiosity and attraction—

if you can envision cooks

who have recipes but no teachers.

This is the land of directors

who let their actors be themselves.

This is the sea of dancers

who never follow their choreographers.

And still, I must ask:

How many feet

have trudged the black

streets of Catania paved

with the angry voice of Etna?

How many eyes in Ortygia

have witnessed time purloin

the rocks of Apollo’s Temple?

How many hands no longer

know the way marble was formed

inside Palermo's chiesa del Gesù?

And what else are my questions

besides parachutes

which never open

for those who must fall

from the cliffs of time?

If men could only

have compasses

to realize the direction

of their futile pursuits,

if women could just have

babies they had no

problem abandoning,

if children could simply

remember the world like old

people who never left

their places of birth,

I would know the shores

of your land have no meaning;

I would know the echoes

of your wheat fields are barren;

I would know the songs

your daughters and sons sing

weren’t passed down by their parents,

but in time the mountains have stood

like performers who never

got tired of bowing;

the waters still walked

like philosophers

who could find clarity

without seeking truth;

the winds kept on speaking your name

even when ships were forgetting your ports.

Sicily, what more can be said?

Like reading old books rescued from fires,

the only answers are questions.

Who planted this earth in the water?

And how did people’s roots

grow so long for them not to forget

how the ocean tastes?

All that separates you from Italy

is the distance on which a bridge

can be built but yet none exist—

and maybe it’s better this way.

Let your body be yours

and may it embrace all those

who embark in your arms.

But keep the steel hands

of humanity away,

for the metals and stones

that fashion connections

are precisely the matters

which also build cages and walls.

Let your land be a bazaar

to which every culture

can bring their spices and herbs—

let strangers be like friends

cut off by oceans,

who rarely speak to each

other yet have much in common;

let their flavors be mixed

in the most radiant way;

and still, never forget the hands

which take more than they give.

The way thirsty Bedouins

won’t renounce the deserts

which give them no water,

so I imagine no other

path but the sea leading to you.

Forgive the waves inside me,

which arrive like guests

bearing no gifts,

but recede like messengers

who’ve brought you good news.

Forgive the droughts in my ideas,

which catch you like good friends

who talk far too much,

but always initiate the farewell.

Forgive the gusts in my speech

which rush like thieves to your door,

but walk away like parents

who’ve given advice.

Forgive the avalanches in my depression,

which pull you down

like drowning children,

but release you like mountains

whose slopes are gentle.

Tell me how I can be with you

and still let you be free.

To respect your past

is to love you like a scholar;

to admire your future

is to worship you like a seducer.

What lover’s eyes

truly see in the present?

Like destroyed bridges

whose ends no longer meet,

either they wallow

in the mistakes of history

or become trapped

by the hereafter’s seduction.

As miners may forget how dark

the blue sky gets at night,

so I approached Messina’s shores.

Passing the golden Madonnina,

I didn’t hear the slightest echo

of my homeland’s calling;

gazing at the Virgin Mary’s Latin blessing,

still strange to me then,

I realized the importance

of keeping memories you’ve forgotten.

Why must the future be a graveyard

where promises are buried,

and why is the past a hospital

where only sick children are born?

Walking down Via Garibaldi,

I saw your Moreton Bay figs.

Like soldiers who aren’t afraid

to die for their country,

they stood like men afraid

of dying for nothing—

their branches yearned for the sky

and their roots tempted the underworld.

And while the ruins near Largo San Giacomo

were rigid like agnostics at a crossroad,

the grass around them bloomed

like fields no one had stepped on.

Still, could it be that neither

living nor dying matters

that much anymore?

Poverty is a diamond begging

to become a wedding ring;

wealth is the same diamond

selling its body on the street.

Every beggar asking for change

next to Messina Cathedral

revealed how slowly seconds

will move when even

the faithful won’t feed you.

Every penny given to God

showed me how quickly Sundays

can pass when there’s enough hell

in your pockets to bribe the watchmaker.

And yet, what else could I realize

standing next to your clock tower?

The stones rested like dead pharaohs

surrounded by servants

who could no longer serve them—

time moved like wealth

that couldn’t make them wealthy.

Having never been rich

nor been a beggar,

it was hard to appreciate

both the edifice’s opulence

and the bodily decay it was guiding us towards.

What else could I become

but a musician—

no, a luthier who can’t stand

the silence of a forest

in which the best woods

for his instruments grow?

What more could I do

besides stand there like a statue

history was bound to disown in the future?

At once, when the bells rang

in Piazza Duomo,

I forgot the definition

of an island.

The way some artists

in small villages

have already painted

every resident’s portrait,

I suddenly felt alone

when all faces became familiar.

Like places you’ve never been,

their anger and smiles

had strange contours and textures—

their glances were like rumors

about distant lands;

their bodies moved like fairytales

even children question,

and it was hard right then

to ignore the awareness

of death on every expression.

The sudden urge to leave

the island yet remain in Sicily

haunted me like a reality—

no, it was a nightmare

I didn’t want to wake up from.

Ecstasies of the past;

miseries of the future;

and always, always, always,

the present’s monotony

flying over me like the bluest

sky on the Winter Solstice;

as lovers who shun people

in favor of ideas,

I’ve already seen Etna

covered in snow—

although my eyes

haven’t witnessed it.

I’ve already sensed how cold

the Tyrrhenian Sea can get—

although my skin

hasn’t felt it.

From the steps

of Cefalù Cathedral,

I looked upon men and women

who were no different from me;

yet, they neither knew

who I was nor did they want to know;

it’s hard to describe the relief

which confined me right then—

every thought was an umbrella

in a future with no rain;

every smell was the red lipstick

worn by a woman long overdue for a kiss;

every sound was a wine glass

held by a man tired

of drinking alone;

every face was a portrait

drawn by bad artists;

every street was paved

by people who’d never traveled.

There was nothing else

I could do but weep without tears;

like hunters who feel guilty

when they kill to survive,

I took my heart out of its frame,

cut the empathy into six pieces,

and loaded it in a revolver—

my finger ready to fire

when the last ounce of air

ran out within me.

Yet, there are mysteries left

in the light of your mosaics—

they still blind the ones who

look at them long enough;

meanwhile the rotten abbey

overlooking the sea

is left to damnatio memoriae;

yet the past grows like weeds

in a garden where all plants

are thought sacred.

Likewise, the future dies

in the beds of unwanted plans,

always conceived in the absence

and presence of love.

Still, the sky is a place

where no one goes to sleep tired—

the white pillows you witness

have never once borne

the world’s weight;

no, it’s not true.

Looking out at the endless

water from Capo Marchiafava’s Bastion,

I still couldn’t escape the sense

of finality that biology

had planted inside me.

The mountains I beheld

were no different

than turtles hiding

in their shells—

even their summits

were crowns of disgraced kings.

While nature’s castles

could shield us forever

from its own storms,

they can only protect us

for so long as we live.

There’s no empathy

in the waves which bring

dead sailors back to the shore.

There’s no love in a storm

speeding up a ship’s return home.

Turning away from the depths

where life had emerged

but where I couldn’t survive,

your streets filled with tourists

suddenly called to me.

I’d grown tired of being

in a church where there was none—

my eyes had witnessed

so much of God’s water

they could cry at every funeral

and birth still to come.

Right then, it felt both natural

and wrong to believe

the world belonged to no one—

that like a bad dream leaving a corpse,

it both arrived from nowhere

but also came from a past

that’s ceased to exist.

Like a priest confessing his sins,

I’d lost the power

to be surrounded by people.

Ambition, greed, love, rapture,

misery, fortune, freedom, and fate

no longer seemed divisible—

like conjoined twins

who’d become sworn

enemies by trying

to follow diverging goals.

Among the restaurants

and souvenir shops,

the churches, and coffee shops,

I stumbled upon Porta Pescara

and walked through it

as if to be born again.

Once more, there was the sea,

but also the priest still

full of doubts;

there would be no confession today—

I entered the water

to wash my baptism

away from my skin.

Like forgetting

the page on which you stopped

reading a book

you won’t come back to again,

I searched in vain

for a feeling to place

between these ordeals

I’d written.

Like throwing white flags

from the roof of a burning skyscraper,

there was nothing left to surrender.

I’d reached every height

and the ability to fly

was no longer enough—

Only the powers of a bird

that could sleep in the air

could satisfy me right then.

And yet, nowhere did life seem

more precious than inside

the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo.

Did I have to witness a mother

pushing her stroller

for all the skeletons to see?

Did I have to realize

the child itself wasn’t crying?

Why did only dead faces

express anguish and joy here?

There’s no canyon wide enough

to hold a newborn river and dried-up

one at the same time.

The deceased didn’t scare me

so much as the baby did—

like an explorer that knows

how long he must walk

but has yet to make the first step,

I could easily fathom the distance

under which my own body

might willingly drown,

and yet, the mind that’s eager

to live has no way to measure

such philosophies as these.

Just let me be free—

like biologists in love

with man-made forests,

like chemists who only

eat natural foods,

like old men smoking

in front of hospitals.

There’s no need to worry

like a doctor who gets sick

with the sickness he studied—

enlightenment is a city

where every library

is only open to children,

and every city is really a hell

where the fires go out on Sunday.

After all, can you not

leave the wonders

of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio

and minutes later enter

the most tumbledown neighborhood?

Take me into your arms,

you great city of Phoenicians,

Carthaginians, Arabs, and Greeks—

where else but in the Cappella Palatina

could mosaics shine brighter?

Where else is it often hard

to distinguish your ancient ruins

from modern decay?

Where else can you really

feel God in a church

where no one’s worshipping—

and also stop believing

in Him when you pass drunks sleeping

near the doorsteps of Christ?

There’s no point in revealing

how much I love you—

it would be less absurd

to measure

degrees of affection

with a thermometer;

instead, let me tie my hate

with shoelaces and leave

it in the closet—

this way my mind can walk

barefoot on your streets

and guide people only

to your most beautiful places.

Yet, like those with poor vision

reaching for their glasses each morning,

I must take my heart out of its drawer

and wear it to face every sunrise;

like newspapers which never ignore

the flaws of a city they’ve been seduced by—

I close my eyes and read

what they’re telling me:

Your piss-ridden alleys smell

like old picture frames

which have held nothing

but photos of despicable

people for years.

Your aging tenements

are like young orphans

everyone prays and feels sorry for,

but no one wants to adopt.

The cracks in your sidewalks

are faults that have no energy

left to cause any more trouble—

yet everyone still avoids them.

Your graffiti-stained walls

are empty tubes of paint

even artists

no longer want,

but you keep them anyways.

Still, every brick homesick

for the place it came from,

every window staying

closed in August,

every street sign saying

you’re going the wrong way,

every lamp lit up like the eyes

of old men who never married,

and every balcony reaching out

like a hand afraid to help you

is a bouquet of flowers

mixed with red roses of love

and white lilies of mourning.

My eyes saw your body

like two costly wedding rings—

in a ceremony where only one

spouse was marrying for love.

Your own men and women

looked at me as if my heart

was a magnet in the hands of a beggar—

it was really a horseshoe

from the hoof of a beast

tired of pulling its own weight.

Won’t you tell me what goes

on behind the curtain

of your glances

and stares?

Maybe one day

you’ll show me where

the widest part between your

questions and judgments lies and how

you plan to build a bridge connecting the two

banks of this river prone to flooding.

In the short time we had together,

I still passed Quattro Canti

many times and never

once did you open

the door like

a host

that knows

who’s knocking.

The grandiosity of your

cathedral was too much for me—

I was impressed like a hermit

who’d seen people

for the first time in years.

And still, I approached the edifice like a son

who’d stolen from his mother

and now wanted forgiveness.

The way lamps beg for darkness,

just to be less alone in the light,

how I longed to be one

with the beige stones—

their skin so unlike my own.

Would I find strangers

who might treat

me like family at last,

or did I just want to curse

relatives who embraced

me like a stranger?

Your stones listened

with the ears of monks,

and spoke with the tongues of crowds—

no silence or noise was ever enough.

How I waited for a prayer

to ring out from your dead walls

so my corpse too could live again.

How I yearned for less light

so my troubled thoughts could sleep.

Like watching a magical coin

always land on its edge,

I could no longer tolerate

the presence of God—

His fingerprints

appeared on every stone;

and, likewise, I could easily smell

the devil’s spirit that was here

to erode them.

Finally, the way cold reptiles

are forced to move by the sun’s hand,

I found the means to leave without

having to make a decision.

And still, this was a blessing—

there was more peace

in the heat of Villa Bonanno

its palm trees swaying

like drunks who are bothering no one;

there was far greater silence

in the noise of Mercato di Ballarò;

the fish, lemons, oranges,

and every meat lying under the sun

imprisoned the ears like angry wardens—

forcing the nose to stand straight and listen.

The way guilt tends to sweat

even when it’s cold,

so is smell the best evidence

of a life led with gusto.

Dead are your sculptures of the past

who were born motionless to begin with.

Dead are your divine kings

and so too their castles.

What more could their bodies

and walls have asked for,

except the heavenly right

to become dust—

to be as speechless

in the wind’s presence

as the peasants they once ruled?

Dead are the sermons and prayers

of churches who’ve turned

their walls into museums—

no different than finely carved candles

you dare to behold only in daytime.

Dead, too, are your traditions and myths,

which burn like cigarettes in the mouths

of young people trying to quit smoking.

How relieved I felt, at last,

to escape this passing and stroll

the charcoal-brushed

streets of Catania.

The only things still alive

in Sicily are the waves

molding every dead rock,

and the mountains

which keep causing destruction—

yet, only Etna is like the Christ

that refuses to be crucified.

Yes, you, Chalcidian city

on the Ionian sea—

how many volcanic floods

must arrive to cleanse

all your triumphs and sins?

How much rain will it take

for people to put out

the flames with their tears?

Nowhere else have I felt

the warmth from fires

that no longer burn.

Nowhere else have I heard

the screams from pain

that no longer exists.

Nowhere else have I tasted

the blood from a wound

that healed long ago.

The ruins of your ancient

theaters are more than just matter—

I heard the applauses and cheers

still frozen within the volcanic rocks.

Like houses from which the future

had moved out long ago,

did it really matter that I was here?

And what tiring monologues

did people witness in these very stands?

They’ve become archives no one

wants to visit anymore.

But where’s the fame and the grand

ovations which the good actors won here?

It’s all remembered like a passing

remark you didn’t hear clearly.

Where are the petty arguments

and disputes that occurred on these seats?

Like dust inside a coffin,

they never left the stands.

Where’s the boredom of one spectator

and the excitement of another—

felt during the same performance?

They met on a pilgrimage to oblivion,

walking there for different reasons.

Where? Where? Where?

The Catanese sun had no answers

and neither did the breeze

crawling in from the Ionian Sea.

There was only clarity—

nothing but godforsaken clarity

answering my own questions,

waiting for me like a pendulum

in a narrow corridor,

expecting me to recite

a monologue from the stands,

so the dead actors below

could cease moving parallel to their walls—

see some entertainment at last.

And so, it was hard not to yearn

for the roar of Etna again—

to be free of humanity

and yet live in a city

where you could cross

the street without waiting,

where you could wait

without ever being late,

where you could ignore time

and never be punished,

in a place without punishment

where people followed the rules,

in a place without laws

you didn’t have to obey,

in a place where people

who didn’t obey

them also didn’t exist.

Still, the purity of movement

and action springs from the hands

which destroy and rebuild

their own monuments—

the swamps of remembrance

and reflection, meanwhile,

move like rabbits

which never cease to be hunted.

Morals perceive a blaze

like it’s a foreigner refusing

to shed the smoke of his culture—

destruction treats the same flames

like immigrants forced

to forget their homeland,

but also forbidden to burn

their old language and clothes.

Truly, memory is a wooden boat

trying not to sink on infernal waters.

And yet, how many times did Etna’s voice

command the Cathedral of Saint Agatha

to throw every new robe

into the fire—only to begin

clothing her ruins again?

In the same way we stand

on the ocean’s shore,

never questioning why waves

follow each other without hesitation—

I looked at Bellini’s grave,

then at the walls which protected it,

knowing that like echoes

which die quickly yet

take forever to fade,

the maestro’s music

would stay young even in silence—

every note was a young ripple

that could feel the skin

of your coast only

for seconds before it returned home;

meanwhile, the undying stone

of the composer’s tomb

could always be buried

in Etna’s graveyards of lava.

The earliest morning in the world

isn’t an artist who rises to the sun before it’s time—

no, the most virgin dawn is an active volcano

thousands of years old that still keeps

on growing with every expression

of silence it can no longer quell.

From the dome of chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata,

it was futile to look at the hundreds of roofs—

their gentle inclinations

reminded me of bowing

monks lost on the island of contemplation;

it was better to close my eyes

and be like a cup in the desert—

reject hope and yet believe in the future.

No, this city neither asked

for God’s blessing nor tried to run

from the wrath it couldn’t avoid.

Lying on the edge of this dome,

like a healthy person begging to rest at a hospital,

I came to wonder whether, like men,

volcanoes erupt because

of the maladies which afflict them,

or if they cried like children

who couldn’t comprehend their own sadness.

And likewise, I wanted to know

if perhaps humanity’s suffering

wasn’t born from the womb

that could see its own sickness,

but that our pain comes from refusing

to abandon the forest

which fears its own laws.

What more should the depths

of a clean river do besides seize

people who don’t cherish it

and never let them go?

Why should the weight

of upright trees

not come down on the backs

of those who cut them without remorse?

And how much more sense

can a blazing volcano make

when it speaks of love

in a language you don’t understand?

No, Etna, my ears heard you like parallel roads

going in opposite directions.

My eyes saw you like a married couple

trying to avoid confrontation

but not speaking in the process.

My feet wanted to approach you

like two rivers from lands

that hate each other—

each stream flowing

into the same lake

whose depths loved them both.

And yet, my heart tried protecting itself

by building a library around its desires

and letting only the illiterate inside.

Like surgeons who find no soul in the flesh,

like lovers who see no history under the covers,

like loggers who notice no past under the bark,

like runners who can’t face defeat at the finish line,

I turned my sight away from your heights

and focused it on the shores of Syracuse.

How else could I feel the Gelsomineto waters?

Only detectives searching for answers

outside the margins of their profession

could’ve understood me right then.

Still, contemplation alone is never enough—

it’s a hotel room you have no trouble sleeping in,

but the view from the window reminds

you too much of home;

it’s a movie theater you can easily sneak into,

but every film being shown

has an unresolved ending.

And so, I climbed onto the rugged cliff

from which young kids

were jumping without too much reflection.

The desire for childhood seized me

like the last seconds of a family reunion

that happens every ten years—

still, my train was departing

and without this farewell

the clock couldn’t restart again.

How I wanted to kill every philosopher inside me,

throw every last desire for contemplation

into the flames of action—

to grow younger,

and not for the sake of youth alone,

but to discover once more irresponsibility,

creativity, and the stubborn commitment

that might keep me from turning my head

at the sound of each voice—

every note leading

me to a different right way.

Like an architect whose buildings

always trespass the mind’s borders

but never the edges of his blueprints,

so the height I had to leap from

was both too high and not high enough.

How did these kids overcome their fear?

Were they like hostages who suddenly

remembered the wealth of their families

and lost all sense of panic—

knowing their ransom would come?

Or, were they like pilots

down to their last ounce of fuel,

flying above calm waters,

carrying no one on board except themselves?

Oh, God, if you have any sense left,

take away this wisdom rushing over me—

it’s the same burden of victory

guilty defendants feel when they’re acquitted

of crimes they’ve in fact committed.

Let me jump from this cliff and fall finally—

both indifferent to gravity like a rock

and fully aware of my fate like a physicist.

Too long have my hands held suitcases

which didn’t belong to me—

my back always facing the horizon.

Like a weatherman gambling

with snow in the summer,

I waited for a chance to cheat

the dealer of fate out of his winnings.

And still, what a blessing it is to lose,

to resign one’s self with the same firmness

cast into the direction of train tracks—

to renounce freedom like a road

which never diverges

but always gives

you the chance to walk back.

Then, like a thunderbolt

which lingers for a second too long,

I could no longer distinguish

daytime from night—

I jumped without forcing

my body to make a decision.

Still, the world returned

when I crashed into the water—

commitments, plans, and hopes

took their usual seats in the theater

of existence where those who paid the most

always got the best view of the farce known as life.

What else could my thoughts be but a million heretics

searching for their own shepherds?

What more did my skin have but a hundred lovers

holding the leash of my youth—

ready to let go when I could no longer walk?

What other point did my life

have besides the sunrise I never woke up for,

and the sunset that will surely send me to sleep?

Like a ladder that’s taller than anything God

ever left in the lowlands,

I gazed at the Temple of Apollo in Ortygia,

unable to see the greatness

of these ruins in comparison to me.

And yet, I felt small—

my humanity was a river

that could flood anytime,

but the engineers of essence

kept building their homes next to me,

making nature more mortal.

Was it really this curse I feared?

To be buried yet never allowed

to become eminent ruins—

to be so sacred that no archaeologist

would ever dare uncover my history?

And still, how weak the hands

of science alone really are,

for its grasp has no greater strength

to lift our corpses than those of religion.

At that moment I knew these rocks

had changed from a shrine of humanity

into the headstone for civilization.

What else did men’s hands carve

into this unyielding marble

except the desire to be with women

who could bear them no children?

What did their handsome faces look like?

What were their names?

The future can forget everything—

even make family fade from a blood stain.

The way maps never tell you who lives on a street,

how it smells, whether there are cracks,

let alone if there’s danger lurking ahead,

so I cursed the intelligence

designed by the charlatans above.

The blood in my hands stopped flowing

like a salesman with no more doors left to knock on—

I wanted to curse the heavens

and the very dirt they created,

but all the anger in my voice

was a piano tuned to the same note.

My body had been reduced to octaves—

the pitch of every organ working

towards one goal.

It was meaningless to picture

the devotion, faith, and sorrow alike

which had passed by these walls—

stones that weren’t ruins once;

now, like farmers who’d never

suffered a drought

and still moved to the city,

only the death even decay

had abandoned remained here.

There was no other hope

but to keep building shrines—

always bigger than ourselves so the demons

above could rejoice at our torment.

Who else except chemists charged

with making nothing but poison

fashioned the pyramids of Egypt,

the theaters of Greece,

or the aqueducts of Rome?

And yet, these things will fade

before nature’s own toxic

creatures and plants go extinct.

What, then, do I make of your

fate, Ortygia, you island of Sicily?

Like you I want to be surrounded

by loneliness and still belong to someone;

but go on, there’s nothing you can do to save me—

I refuse to leave hope alone

like smoke trapped in a room

without windows.

I follow the footsteps of despair

like an echo trying to disprove

rumors about itself.

I turn away from compassion

like a heavy wrench in the hands

of a child who neither has the strength

nor the knowledge to use it.

I get along with impatience

like a critic enjoying terrible plays—

just so he can write bad reviews.

I compromise with anger

like a Cyclops who agrees

to sleep with one eye open.

When I gazed at the lava

stone shores of Aci Trezza,

my body became the anchor

for ships which had embarked

on voyages to find the ocean.

My mind became the tent

for Bedouins who still

went out in search of the desert.

And this time, I saw neither

the dead mountain,

nor felt the living

volcano inside it.

Like a freshwater fish

exiled to a salty sea,

I was both at home

and also yearned

for the place of my birth.

Take my soul, Etna, and throw

it into the fire like a blacksmith

desperate to destroy all his weapons of war;

or consign it to the lowest circle of hell

by prolonging my doubt

for the punishment you can inflict.

Like immigrants who’ve abandoned

their relatives to go live abroad,

I wanted to be a faraway island

with a hundred bridges leading to it.

Like jurors whose bias helps them reach

the right verdict before the trial even starts,

it was hard to be surrounded

by water being poisoned by doubt.

And still, picturing the mainland

that wasn’t visible from here,

I wondered if it’s better

for an island to stay near the continents

while refusing all handshakes

which are hard to let go of—

for that’s what you are, Sicily.

Like psychologists listening

to their friends complain,

like math professors who fall

in love with poor gamblers,

like lawyers laughing

at commoners breaking the law,

like explorers who can’t relate

to those who ask for directions,

like photographers who won’t marry

people with bad memories,

like privates who warn the elderly

about the dangers of smoking,

like sociologists who are never

relaxed at large parties,

like sous-chefs who dread

being invited over for dinner,

like insurance agents telling

their kids not to fear earthquakes,

like tax collectors who preach

the gospel of generosity,

like librarians whose friends

never pay back what they owe,

I felt the textures of Sicily’s body—

beheld the shape of every spirit

in the wide-open yet wary

eyes of Valentina and Emanuele.

And so, I left the island

like a postal worker

who’d purposely forgotten

to deliver a sad letter

addressed to a friend.

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