About Nightfall in Verona

Welcome to a Great Story from a Loquacious Renegade...

In 1973 I had the great good fortune to be treated to a trip to Europe by two friends. We bought a VW bus in Frankfurt and wound our way over the Alps to Tuscany. A week and a half later I was in a train headed down the coast of Italy alone, embarking on what remains the adventure of my life. Nightfall in Verona is the memoir of my odyssey, written last year thirty-seven years out.

Friend Caroline Marshall, editor of the NPR Anthology Listening to Ourselves calls my book "fabulous."

The inimitable poet Ruth Mowry writes: "
Oh heartbreak and romance. This is incredible. You are a wonderful writer, and this has captivated me, just this chapter! Wow."

My friend and editor Jack Brooks says I've written a "glittering, lyrical tour d' force."

Thanks to all who spurred me on and served as my "beta" readers and editors: Caroline, Jack, Maureen. I'll be publishing the work through my imprint, Orfea Books with customary fanfare soon.

Use the archived links on the sidebar to access the chapters. Do leave a comment or two-- and thanks for reading me.

I post poetry at La Parola Vivace, and I blog on the issues du jour at Loquaciously Yours. You can contact me at jenneandrews2010@gmail.com .

Jenne' Andrews March 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chapter Fourteen - Nightfall in Verona - Jenne' R. Andrews

Chapter 14 Wherein the Poet Is Sleepless in Calabria

Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che tremano d'amore
e di speranza.

Ma il mio mistero e chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprá!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo diró
quando la luce splenderá!

Ed il mio bacio sciogliera il silenzio
che ti fa mia!

(Il nome suo nessun saprá!...
e noi dovrem, ahimé, morir!)

Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vinceró!
vinceró, vinceró!

Nessun Dorma
No-one sleeps....no-one sleeps,
Even you, O Princess,
in your cold room,
Watch the stars
which tremble with love
and hope!

But my secret is locked within me,
no-one shall know my name!
No, no, I shall say it on your mouth
when the light breaks!

And my kiss will break the silence
that makes you mine!

(No-one shall know his name,
and we, alas, shall die!)

Vanish, o night!
Set, ye stars!
At dawn I shall win!

Calaf's Aria, Turandot, Giacomo Puccini

In the Palazzo Candido, Anna’s husband Carmelo had made spaghetti sauce, boiling pork neck bones and beef knuckles down to a gelatinous stock, adding crushed tomatoes and herbs, red wine and olive oil. This sauce had been simmering throughout the morning.

We walked in to yet another welcome and a feast. We sat and drank and laughed into late afternoon and early evening.

One of the sisters, Angelica, took me aside.

Franco pinch hit for us. “She will wash your clothes… She wants to…. iron your bra,” he said. “She wants to wash your hair.”

Notwithstanding that it had never occurred to me to iron my own bras, I surrendered to the family's pampering. I had begun to comprehend that to have an “American Regazza” all to themselves was a momentous thing. I was some kind of touchstone for another world, just as they were to me.

I held Santina on my lap; her face was covered with mashed bananas and I wiped it clean, bouncing her on my knee.

I sang to her.

“Ride a cock horse to Bayberry Cross... see a fine lady upon a white horse... rings on her fingers/bells on her toes/ she makes sweet music wherever she goes.”

My mother had sung this to me. I suddenly saw her face. Something deep within me reached for her. I distracted myself, pulling Santina's dress down over her diaper cover, re-securing the barrette in her wispy dark hair. I hugged her tightly.

She gurgled, cooed and giggled when I tickled her.

Pepe watched, reflectively smoking a cigarette.

Out in the kitchen, Mama's voice rose and fell as she directed Anna to roll the pasta more thinly, Carmelo to add some of the basil we had bought at the market to the sauce. I touched a bit of the white powder to my mouth, and reapplied my lipstick. I had no idea what I looked like to them.

Pepe was watching me. His eyes were dark and steady, his mouth in a half-smile.

He came over to me and kissed me gently on the neck and sat down again.

“Sei una angela con bambino en quel’ abrazzo...” “You are an angel with a baby in your arms,” he said.

Somehow I had understood every word. Within my very soul there was again a wild and dark horse, galloping away from the moment, racing toward cliffs that towered over a storming sea.

We sat at the table while Carmelo brought trenchers of spaghetti from the kitchen. The great globe of wine was passed around the table.

The radio was on low; an Italian voice sang pop songs.

Everyone put their heads in their plates, attacking the spaghetti, rolling great bundles of it around their forks, and stuffing it into their mouths, talking away well past my comprehension.

We sat together at the end of the table.

Angelica, Carmello and Anna's eldest daughter reached for more bread.

“No, basta, figlia, “ Anna said. Enough. Angelica got up and threw her plate of food on the floor.

Carmello jumped to his feet, grabbing her by the arm, shouting, “Che cosa, figlia! Maldita!”

Suddenly the family was in turmoil, everyone shouting at everyone else. Angelica burst into tears and clung to Carmello's leg. My heart was in my mouth. The abrupt storm of anger was too close to home.

Santina, adorably chubby in her high chair, burst into tears.

Papa Candido rose to his feet.

“Basta!” he shouted, “Subito!”

God had spoken. Everyone settled down and within minutes, Carmelo hugged Angelica, wiping away her tears with his napkin. Anna rocked Santina in her arms. Throughout all of it, Mama had remain unperturbed, as if this sort of outburst were completely commonplace. It was as if a storm had passed, love and laughter remaining in its wake.

One night in Colorado when we were all drinking, I had tossed a cookie sheet with enchiladas on it out into the snow. It had taken us hours to reconnect, to be a family again and I had thawed the enchiladas, pushing on, making everything all right at the table, my role for half a lifetime. Now, I could see that in this family, love held sway, even when the hot-blooded-- everyone sitting near me-- erupted.

The river of talk resumed and a heated political debate began. The Calabrese were proud of their independence from the rest of Italy, their own cultural identity, and a new premier had been preaching a unified Italy. The pope had weighed in; in this family, the “Papa,” the Vatican, was spoken of with utter reverence.

Anna had seen my concern for Angelica, and smiled at me, passing me the last of the salad.

A mere week away from delivering her third child, she got up and carried the heavy plates and silverware to the kitchen. Despite the family’s remonstrations, I helped her. Pepe chatted away with his brother in law.

Evening appeared in the windows of the Palazzo Candido. I had taken my antibiotics and mercifully bypassed the worst of a bladder infection.

Last night now seemed eons ago. I had not recovered from the train ride. I had not assimilated our joining together into the present; it felt as though someone else had been in that room in Salvatore's palazzo, cradled in amore.

I could not fathom, although it had been mere hours ago, that we had swum in the very waters Homer himself had envisioned mythic confrontations in eons ago.

Not so Pepe.

He stood up. “Scusi. Parlo con Jenni.”

He took me into the darkened parlor. We sat down on a loveseat.

He smiled, and buried his face in my neck.

Then he took my hand and placed it against himself..

“ Guarda , Jenni. Look. Sempre duro. Pasquale.” He chuckled.

I glanced at the doorway. “Pepe~ no.... la famiglia..”..
He pressed his hand against me.

“Pasqualina. Una fica fenomenale,” he laughed softly. It wasn't hard to guess what he had said to me.

Tumescent and flushed, we walked back into the dining room and sat down. I saw another night of nights looming ahead, and I reached for the wine. 

Another hour of talk and dessert fled by, and then we said goodnight and left the family arguing, cajoling, putting the babies to bed.

We walked back in passagietta, arms enwined,  to the palazzo along the beach, the incoming tide etched in phosphorous. Pigeons wheeled in the air, flying back and forth from their nests in the eaves of the villas along the Reggio lido.

We passed others on the path who smiled and nodded: Buona Sera...ciao... buona sera... ciao, we replied; the river of language enveloped us, cascading Italian, a waterfall of sound.

Pepe led me through the throng of people in promenade, where the path to the palazzo narrowed, and we stood to watch the moon balanced on the sea. 

It trembled on the undulant, satin water.  A ribbon of light made its way to where we stood, illuminating us as we slipped off our shoes and stepped into the surf.

The iridescent foam cloaked the sand, withdrawing, each time surging beyond where it had been, making its way to us.  As I drank in the moonlight, caressed by the fingers of the sea, Pepe stood behind me.  He kissed my neck.  He whispered to me, his hands under my shirt.  

Turning to kiss him, slipping my hand over his belt, I relearned him in the shadows.

"Per ti," he whispered.

We climbed the stairs to the palazzo and went to our room.  He opened the casement.

He set a long-stemmed silver cup of almond milk on a table. I put on my peignoir and sat in the window, looking out at the moon over the water.  The salty spray from the incoming tide cooled my face, lifting my hair.

We sat facing each other, sipping from our glass, kissing, our mouths filled with the aftertaste of the liqueur.

A night of love, un notte d'amore, should have the richness of wedding cake.  It should contain secrets of the kind that might spill from one' lips later, when one is old, in the night, in a delirium.

We lay down on white expanse of the bed.

“Mi regazza, mi rosa..che piace…” My beautiful girl, my rose, what will please you,” he asked, smiling down at me.

“Tu. Questi. Tutto.”  You. This.  Everything.”

We fused together, side to side, eyes to eyes in the near-darkness.

He slipped his fingers into my mouth, parting and caressing the sea flower I had become.

“Nessun Dorma, amore,” he teased.

Stopping each other’s voices with kisses, digging our fingers into each other’s hungry flesh, we hovered on the wave’s lip; then we were pulled out to sea.

As my heart rate slowed, longing leached from my eyes. Suddenly I was desperately afraid we would lose each other; I felt myself caught between the present and the past, a lone seabird, falling without wings.

“Jenni..”.he whispered. “No lagrimas, per favore. Non or'”-- No crying, not now. He blotted my tears with a corner of the sheet.

E Vivere, mi amor. E vivere. Siamo in due, per eternita.” It's to live, my love. We are together, eternally.”

I held him in my arms throughout the night, dozing, memorizing every detail, every word and inference, as I could not extricate myself to write of what I was living. 

 Copyright Jenne' R. Andrews 2011
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