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 Seven - Nightfall in Verona - Jenne' R. Andrews

Chapter Seven, Wherein the Poet Is Claimed  

Ah! Je veux vivre dans ce reve
qui m'enivre ce jour encor
Douce flamme, je te garde
dans mon ame' comme un tresor...
Cette ivresse de jeunesse
ne dure, helas, qu'un jour...”

Ah! I want to live in this dizzy dream
for another day.
Soft flame, I keep you
treasured in my heart!
This delight of you
lasts, alas, only one day!

Juliette's Aria, Romeo et Juliette, Gounod

Io conosco un giardino
sconosciuto a chiunque altro,
un rifugio di velluto
sotto un cielo azzurro intenso.
... Ti porterà in quel rifugio,
e io ornano le labbra di baci ...

I know of a garden
unknown to anyone else
a velvet refuge
under the most intense of skies
I'll take you to that refuge
and cover your lips with kisses...
trans. Jra
“Maristella”, Giuseppe Pietri

“Regazzi Americani,” camping at the Cathedral.

This, according to our unintentional companions, was cause for more wine and celebration. Now dusk was settling around us. I was chilly, and pulled my jacket over my flowered halter top. A basket of bread sticks appeared. Franco fielded questions and answers. “Volare” gave way to “Al di la.”

Franco looked at me, and pointed to Guiseppe. “He is my oncle.” he said. “Oncle Pepe. Oncle Pino. Pino Candido.”

Caroline and Julia stifled a laugh. I frowned at them. I introduced us all.

Carolina, Julia, Jenni,” Franco said. Jenni I became, the French end of my name out of reach.

“Regazzi Americani: bravissima,” Lucky said, hoisting his glass.

For the past several minutes, I had felt Pepe's eyes on me. I had realized that our feet were touching.

Caroline was watching us. I looked at her; she winked at me.

I was about to suggest that we switch places, when Pepe put his arm along the back of my chair. He picked up a breadstick, dipping it into the wine, and then gently offered it to me, bringing it up to my mouth.

Lucky smirked. Franco raised an eyebrow.

I looked at Pepe. His eyes were kind, and seemed a bit tired. I could see a hint of fire in them.

I took his hand and guided the breadstick into my mouth and took a bite. His face broke into a gorgeous grin.

Now everyone cracked up.

“Brava, brava,” Franco exclaimed.

Julia and Caroline looked at me, shaking their heads.

“Now you've done it,” Julia said. “We'll never get rid of them.”

At that moment Franco stood up. “We go,” he said. “We show you night in Verona. We know all the best places.”

Lucky lit up. “Si--faremo una passegiatta,” he said-- “We'll promenade.”

I looked at my friends. Now Pepe had slipped his arm across my shoulders. I couldn't pull away.

We got up and went off to freshen up. When we came back, Franco went to Caroline's side, and linked arms with her. She was taller than he was by a foot. He looked up at her in adoration, as if she had dropped out of heaven.

Lucky went over to Julia, offering his arm, smiling. He had curly hair and dancing green eyes and full lips, an air of overconfidence for a teenager five feet tall.

“O.K.” Julia said, in resignation. “We can go for an hour or so, but I'm tired. We'll just have to stay in the monastery parking lot and take our chances.”

I was past caring. Pepe's arm was around me as we set out to explore Verona.

Now it was nightfall, and there were throngs of tourists in the streets. We left the piazza and found ourselves walking down narrow cobbled streets; on either side were pale, ancient rows of villas with tile rooftops, their walls covered with fading Venetian frescoes.  On the first floor of each beckoned tiny cafes with tables and chairs set up on a terrace.

We slipped into one of the bistros and shared a platter of antipasto, washing it down with white wine, plugging the jukebox with lire. Pepe inserted a small fried squid into his mouth, spreading its tentacles out over his mustache and then turned to me; I screamed, and ducked a kiss.

We drank more Valpolicella and danced, and went back out into the night.

Franco stopped and whispered something to Pepe, and then turned to me.

“We go to the balcony,” he said.

We were mystified, looking at each other.

Our untiring escorts led us through a maze of walkways and suddenly, we entered a courtyard banked by trellises of roses perfuming the night air.

“Va bene,” Lucky said, squeezing Julia and planting a kiss on her cheek. She rolled her eyes at me.

Pepe touched my hand, pointing to something in a corner of the courtyard. He led me past the few other tourists lingering near the walls, reading brochures, writing in small journals. We walked up to a wall, beneath a balcony, where there was a bronze plaque.

“Guarda, Jenni,” he said, tracing the writing with his finger. “Look.”

Caroline and Julia and their escorts stood behind us, chatting.

I peered at the plaque, barely legible in the light of one of the lampposts placed at intervals in the courtyard.

"Romeo… Wherefore art thou, Why hast thou not come....." it read.
The lyric was written in Italian below it.

I was stunned.

At that moment, Pepe took me in his arms. He smoothed my hair back from my face, smiling. He gave me a sweet, lingering kiss.

There was a burst of applause from everyone in the courtyard, including the tourists we had never met. I blushed.

Franco and Lucky conferred with Julia and Caroline.

“We go now to autobus,” Franco said. “You and Pepe stay.”

I panicked.

“Don't leave me here,” I said. “How will I get back?”

“Pepe knows the way,” Franco replied. “You walk. Promenade. Cin-cin.”

I was exhausted. I wanted to curl up under Juliet's balcony and go to sleep.

But, we set out together, exploring first one cobbled, rose-trellised corridor and then another, finally sitting at a small table, across from each other.

He smiled at me. "No English."

I smiled back. “No Italiano.”

Then he smiled again, leaning toward me, taking my hand and squeezing it.

"Beatles. I luv you yeah."

I laughed.

“Le Donne e mobile,” I said, with no sense of whether he would recognize the Rigoletto aria. Women are untrue.

He threw his head back, laughing. I pulled my chair back from the table and we made our way back to the piazza. We stopped every few feet to kiss. When he kissed me he lifted my face up to his, gently teasing and nipping my lips. We lingered on a bridge, beneath which iridescent green water flowed, reflecting the lights of Verona.

"Fiume Po, " he said, kissing me again. This was the River Po', that wound its way through Tuscany.

I unwound the strands of Italian he spoke to me as we walked, managing to glean that he was a pre-med student at the University of Turin. He said that he came from the province of Reggio Calabria, that his home was at the toe of the boot of Italy, across from Sicily.

My responses were half-Spanish and bits of Italian. He seemed to understand me when I said we had flown over in early June for a ten-week trip, and that I had a return ticket dated mid-August.

In addition to kissing me repeatedly, he would draw back and look into my eyes, as if he were trying to read me, to see beneath the image of the young American woman I conveyed.

I told him that I was a poet. He nodded with a thoughtful look on his handsome face, as if that explained something.

In all of those passionate kisses, there was no need, somehow, to throw ourselves down on the banks of the river, or devour each other in one of the alcoves. At the zenith of the era of sexual liberation in the United States, this was startling to me. We sat in a cafe again, and he took my hand, looking at it, holding it to his cheek, tracing my fingers.

We reached the bus, and kissed in the darkness. “Forse domani?” he asked. 

“Non so..” I said, uncertainly. “I don't know..”.

“We're meeting them for breakfast,” Julia called faintly, from the bus.

“Ah. Domani.”


My lips were chapped and burning; I was freezing. He stepped away, pulling his jacket up around his ears.

I slid open the door to the bus.

“God, what time is it,” Caroline said from the depths of her sleeping bag.

“I have no idea.”

“So how was it,” she asked.

I didn't answer. I wanted only to crawl into my nightgown, and burrow into my sleeping bag and recuperate from having just been hit by the moon, which was to have remained suspended over the Fiume Po' rather than knocking me off my feet. Where had he gone? Would he be alright? Surely he wouldn't have to curl up on a bench. He had not so much as suggested he join me in our bus.

We all slid into a sleep punctuated by feral cats beneath the bus, hissing, snarling, rutting. I didn't care.

For once, I was wholly caught up in the moment, suspended between my old life and our journey, euphoric.

“Whether it is singing or dancing or play- 

acting or physical transport of love, or vengeance 

or cruelty, or whether it is work or sorrow or 

religion, the issue is always the same at last, 

into the radiant negation of eternity. Hence 

the beauty and completeness, the finality of 

the Italian.... His figure, his limbs, 

his face, his motion, it is all formed in beauty, 

and it is all completed. There is no flux nor 

hope nor becoming, all once and for all. 

The issue is eternal, timeless, and changeless. 

All being and all passing away is part of the 

issue, which is eternal and changeless. There- 

fore there is no becoming and no passing 

away. Everything, now and for ever. – 

Twilight in Italy, D.H. Lawrence.

No comments:

Post a Comment