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Come della rosa

Mama, you knew it all along that we would get right here. That for me to die with awareness I had to come out of hell and return to life. 

La Soglia
Legge Claudia Liuzzi
 Le fresie e la rivoltella
Legge Claudia Liuzzi
Ritornando dal West 
Legge Claudia Liuzzi
Il Tempio
Legge Tiziana Rinaldi Castro

Quando finalmente ci fu di fronte il deserto, era il crepuscolo. Ceferino mi porse il coltello, la coperta e la bisaccia dell’acqua, disse:

«Non puoi usarli».

Annuii. Rimontò in auto e se ne andò. Mentre guardavo la nube di polvere che si sollevava sotto le ruote del camioncino, capii che mi sarei rimangiata ogni parola.

Fu una notte fallimentare. Camminai in circolo, non mi fidavo del terreno, né del mio senso d’orientamento. Avevo paura e, quando mi coricai, il buio e il freddo mi strinsero nell’angoscia. Fui tentata più volte di riprendere la strada del ritorno e ancora non so quale forza o umiliazione mi tennero lì. Pur non usandola per coprirmi, stesi la coperta sulla sabbia e mi ci coricai sopra.

Il terreno era insidioso e mi illudevo che la coperta avrebbe tenuto lontani serpi e vedove nere.

La notte passò insonne. Al mattino, ripresi il cammino verso il ciglio della strada dove mi aspettava Ceferino. Abbassai la testa quando entrai in macchina. Gli restituii il coltello e la bisaccia. Ma tenni la coperta usata sulle gambe, ne avevo vergogna, anche se era chiaro che avevo freddo e qualche visibile linea di febbre nel viso terreo. A casa provai a congedarmi per dormire un po’, ma quando vidi che Ceferino si era piegato sul pavimento della cucina per romperlo, presi anch’io un martello. Inginocchiata dall’altro lato della stanza, una per volta, spaccai le mattonelle. Lavorammo ininterrottamente per un paio d’ore. Ero furiosa, non aveva compassione del mio fallimento. Poi gli occhi bruciavano e in bocca la febbre si impastava con la polvere. Posai il martello e mi alzai. Continuando a martellare, Ceferino decretò:

«Lupo, una promessa non mantenuta è incancellabile».

I look out at the weeping willow in the courtyard. The light floods it because it is still morning. In the afternoon, bent, the sunrays will strike it from the side, and the leaves will glisten. Like the curls of my daughter Verde when she runs. Like Emiliano’s laugh when he throws back his head and rests his hand on his chest. Impulsively I grab the camera, but it’s not afternoon, neither my daughter nor Emiliano are there, and the worst is that I wouldn’t know how to focus in the objective lens any of these emotions. For a year now I’ve been developing photos in which the intentions stutter.

I lit a cigarette, the anxiety ends up accelerating the moment that the desire wants to arrest, I don’t find much in the image that I develop. Maybe finally I’m freeing myself from a fantasy.

I open the volume of In Praise of Darkness where I keep the five photos that I always carry with me. I know well that they don’t tell an ordered story about me, and the sequence is not important, they seem to have found each other by chance. But they are that which I fear in myself, what I didn’t put away and which I still need.

In the first photo is framed the ceiling of Emiliano’s old house in Chinatown, the merry-go-round of small horses framed in the foreground, with the horses on the brink of bursting through the glossy paper. The photo was taken with a wide-angle lens, the horses have loose manes and red, white, and blue harnesses like the American flag. At sunrise of the day when the house blew up.

I open the volume of In Praise of Darkness where I keep the five photos that I always carry with me. I know well that they don’t tell an ordered story about me, and the sequence is not important, they seem to have found each other by chance. But they are that which I fear in myself, what I didn’t put away and that which I still need.

The fresco on the ceiling of Emiliano’s old house in Chinatown, the merry-go-round of small horses framed in the foreground, with the horses on the brink of bursting through the glossy paper. The photo was taken with a wide-angle lens, the horses have loose manes and red, white, and blue harnesses like the American flag. At sunrise of that day when the house blew up.

The second pictures frames my sister Nannì in my father’s arms. She looks intensely at the camera, she was asked to. She has on a blue coat and white boots with silver buckles, her locks of red hair slipping from the ushanka-hat and entwining with my father’s. Even their eyes were of the same blue, and their freckles, I have always been convinced, in equal number. My mother took this photo.

I stand up, gathering the rest of the photos in a pile. Useless clues of a life that I know all too well. I take two more drags of the cigarette, what am I waiting for?

At the top of the pile is me and Vittorio, Nannì’s childhood friend who, like the clothes, bookbags, and toys, I inherited when she grew up. We’re sitting on the ground, weaving a basket out of straw. In the distance, behind the fence, Fortunato is visible, the bay bull I was terrified of, but that out of love for Vittorio I helped feed, throwing bales of fresh hay in his enclosure. My mother took this one too. Like almost all of the photos of our childhood.

It’s particularly well done, me and Vittorio are captured in an imposing foreground while the field behind us blurs until it frays in the light of the sunset. You get that my mother was a photographer.

I need to give this one back too, the work that I invented for myself in anger, hiding behind her camera so perfectly, into a vessel of luck that let me support my little Verde for seven years, travel the world, earn so much. But I just turned twenty-eight, the time has come to remove the tack of things, the small ones as well as the big, to start sewing daily life “by hand,” like Mama suggests. I’ve been going to her temple for five years and last year the spiritual apprenticeship with her had finally reached the heart; the days that aren’t authentic fray at the hem and slip out, and it’s no longer enough for me to remain attached with my eye to the lens to not doubt myself. I know that it’s my mask and so it must fall immediately before becoming, like alcohol, the frame of a perfect lie.

Why is this photo so difficult?

I close my eyes.

Vittorio waited for me at the border of the two properties, where that of his father Pietro and Nonna Angiolina’s met.

Vittorio was much taller that year, I noticed while running. How did that happen? Even Nannì was tall. It was that comparison that stopped me, my heart in my throat for the joy of seeing Vittorio gripped by the dread that maybe he, like Nannì, wouldn’t want to play with me anymore either.

But instead he raised his hand and beckoned me to hurry up. And then I started running again, until I was beside him and, giving him a slap on the arm, I yelled “I’ll race you” and continued in the direction of the hay barn.

But his legs had grown and in a moment, he reached and passed me. When I went in the hay barn Vittorio laughed and I did too.

“I’ll help you milk the cow if you give me some fresh mozzarella,” I proposed, hopeful when I regained my breath.

“It’s not time yet,” he let me down.

“So then what do we do?”

“The swing!"

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