The Bells that Clang Off-Key Invent New Noons
Downpour. Under the colonnade, a man from China teaches me about opera, and Italian vowels, and how Italian words ping inside the muscles of the face like ball- peen hammers tuning the skull’s hollows. He tells me how he trained for twenty years to mimic the sounds that all Italian babies learn at “ciao.” Sun breaks through the clouds. The plaza fills with sun and rain. As for Orfeo, I believe in genius, and I know if I could hear the voice Ovid himself shied from describing, I’d understand the poverty in how I praise. But it moves me more to imagine the man beside me singing scales—and to think how he could hear when he didn’t reach the notes, like a painter who mixes grays and golds but fails to match the sky. I hold out my hand and he closes his fingers on my wrist, taking my pulse. He claims it tells him a lot about me, until I believe that somehow, in the blood-beat, he can read my fate’s trajectory, as though he hears my footsteps on the slope I keep ascending in the dark. Will I be one whose song shatters the mountains, or just a fool who fiddles in the scree? What does it mean that I want him to know, and never tell me?