Author's Note: "Kavafis" is about being young and unattached in Rome. It is from my forthcoming book Still Life with City.
It was on a remote sidestreet off Corso Vittorio, or maybe Piazza delle Cinque Lune ‒ what difference would it make, anyway? ‒ in a cramped, neglected bookshop, one of the last of its kind, uncomfortable for browsing. Heaven-on-earth, in short. And there it was, the book whose verses would fill my tired days with rare delicacy, in its original Greek with marvellous Italian translations on facing pages. Edizioni del Leone, Venice, 1993. I’d tote it everywhere as I roamed the rain-tortured streets in search of fragments of the kind of love that swept Kavafis up. I’d scour faces for chance exchanges in the library, in a jeweler’s window, in an empty café near the river, but no one there ever noticed my looking. I was but a shadow stalking myself in a mirror, an image wrought by youth and my own restless mind, an angel wrested from its silver cloud pinned down to Earth. I’d fall asleep in its pages, under its muslin spell of languid scholars, youths like marble satyrs, pre-Christian codes of love. “Slow time,” as Keats wrote. I wanted slow- ness too, fresh from New York City and its pounding ribcage. Saurian Rome hadn’t changed much, as I’d come to see it, from the gold-leaf days of Kavafis’ heady lovers, when it was little more than a fading empire, its languorous body stretched out across the Mediterranean like a tired courtesan, voluptuous, bursting with signs and wonders of a strange new faith. Late afternoon’s pink light, the orange garden crowning the Aventine, its iron gates, a roar of motor-scooters disturbing the unbreathable air, and time like a ruined clock stopped forever in the slow turning of sun-dappled pages.
First published in THINK
©2022 Marc Alan Di Martino
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