Nights, she thinks she can still hear the music playing downstairs. The piano in the living room, its dust-covered keys recalling concertos and requiems once composed here. And Pietro’s Gesù Bambino, Constantino’s Camellia, how their melodies make her long for days gone by. She lies awake for hours, stares up at the painted ceiling. There are stories of ghosts still wandering these halls. Things hidden beneath floorboards, behind walls. The house holds onto it all, hushes her secrets, shelters what she cannot let go. For decades, she has tried to keep everything the same—the furniture and photographs, the pages of sheet music arranged on the piano’s mahogany shelf—to preserve a time when these rooms were bustling with family, humming with song.
Each morning, the mountains are dressed in fog, the silhouette of their peaks emerging as the hours slip by. Time moves fast here, like the swifts, darting and swooping, spending entire days in flight. Eating, drinking, sleeping on the wing. She, too, feels as though she lives this way. In constant motion. Even in this place of respite. There are gardens to weed. Shutters to paint. There are cobwebs to sweep. And things to gather, to discard, from the lavatoio, the serra. Things that have long outlived their purpose: A shovel with no handle. A cracked watering can. A table with three legs. Time here, slower in its transformation of things: The decay of wood. The rust of railings and gates. The patina of gutters. The crumble of concrete pillars. The wither of grape vines. And trees shedding their fruit each season. Apple, pear, persimmon left to rot on the ground.
Monday, in the mercato, she tastes the olives and the cheese. She imagines her mother beside her, how she would have sampled it all—the tomatoes and peppers, the ripe sweetness of peaches and melon. There is magic in this place, in this valley and this house up on the hill. There are storied heirlooms stacked inside cupboards. In the attic, reminders of a war. How her mother would have been awed by this history. How she would’ve pressed one hand to her chest, looked up at the mountains and made the sign of the cross, recalling the sound of prayer in her parents’ native Italian, a language she regretted never taking the time to learn. Each morning, her daughter pushes open the shutters, listens to the magpies rattle the magnolia tree, and she carries her through the day, writing her into this landscape, these rooms.
Kristina Moriconi is a poet, essayist, and artist who divides her time between suburban Philadelphia and NYC. In 2011 she received her MFA in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma Washington. She teaches in the M.F.A. program at Rosemont College.