Chapter #1

The relic of Saint Francis

There are two green benches. They look sideways toward Saint Francis, waiting in front of the monastery; two sycamores have the solemn air of friars. The church is a limb toward the heavens, united in prayer; its round face shifts expression as light passes through. Somehow there’s always a leaf falling to the ground, and a certain silence hanging over the seasons. The lead-like grey skies at two in the afternoon just before Christmas comfort like a psalm. The surging sunlight of July caresses the back. The door atop the stone steps is almost always open. Sometimes I sit down: I take in the cloister garden, the half-light of the benches, the scent of lit candles and I don’t think about it…not even an idea. I turn around: there’s a tiny street beginning from below, climbing upward, another trickle toward the piazza. There are two green benches. The city safeguards them among the streets that flow outward like raindrops on glass.

Chapter #2

Cortona beyond the walls

The placid red evenings swoop downward, far away, so much so that you almost can’t see them. They point toward the railroad, and even beyond the expansive, grassy plain that inches its way toward the lake. They emerge from the crevices of the walls, popping like arrows, drawing wild trajectories: they play the same game to the eyes of countless civilizations. No interpretation, no prophecy and no study has ever conquered their vibrant happiness and their childlike recklessness - between somewhere else and the small town. When they slip away, darkness and wind recount them, inspiring fear in homes; at their return, every man is still a boy; and in every woman, a flower is blooming.

Chapter #3

Historic center: each new day is the most beautiful day to date

Artisti a Cortona
Artisti di strada a Cortona
Le mura di Cortona

I’m moving slowly through Cortona on a warm July morning: it’s just me, my sister, my dad and mom. A clown comes up to me, acting out a romantic scene, within a circle of people gathered round, taken by the shadowy street and light wind. We didn’t dance, but it was as if we had spun upward into the air; he didn’t speak, but it seemed as if he sang the entire time. Then came a round of applause. Mama put her hand on my head. Daddy recorded everything on his cell phone, and my sister was laughing. I can’t walk. I didn’t think I’d done it because I was in a wheelchair. I don’t think it, but that day I’d danced.

Chapter #4

Etruscan seduction: MAEC, the museum of Cortona

Cortona, lampadario etrusco
Lampadario etrusco

The dark room created cold and fear, a spark, and was becoming golden. Azun was waiting for that moment: she wanted to announce the beginning of something that she couldn’t participate in. Those wise women, light steps, were just a rustling; then they were grand black shadows. That evening, the light flickered slowly on all the monsters of the grandiose chandelier. The flames had them looking meaner, better. She depended on the size of her smile or her eyes; they changed just like the days change in the hills of Curtun, that night enveloped by the fog. The illegitimate daughter of an Etruscan priestess, Azun had one black eye like a lost animal, and one blue one like a contented goddess.

Chapter #5

Music from Le Celle of S. Francis to the Fortezza del Girifalco

The Laudario codex intuited how words rest against notes: just as hills do against the Valdichiana. A moving landscape of olives and olden times greets the young man who knows not what will become of his life. A place that’s both full and empty, distracted and yet balanced: life and poetry that will energize the clear-eyed troubadour.