n i g h t i n g a l e s h i r a z / blog
Come with me to the land of purple mushrooms.

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Déjà lu

Before I went to hear Jhumpa Lahiri read at San Lorenzo in Miranda two years ago, I bought a copy of Unaccustomed Earth for myself.  But some time after the reading, I ended up giving it away to my cousin Noor.  Possibly because Lahiri read her own work in so magnificently boring a fashion that evening, and so I may have been momentarily done with her.  Possibly because she left so ungracefully soon after the reading, and so I had no chance to have her sign the book (as far as I could tell, nobody did).  Or possibly because Lahiri herself dedicated Unaccustomed Earth to someone named Noor (along with someone named Octavio, but I don't know any Octavios yet), and so it felt like right.

That was the summer Noor was here—Noor's summer of Italy.  And so I did read the book, before she left.  I did end up meeting this line:

There were times Ruma felt closer to her mother in death than she had in life, an intimacy born simply of thinking of her so often, of missing her.

Of course, at the time, I thought of my father.  And only my father.


And I thought of another keepsake from this collection I seem to be curating, from back in 2007, from God's Mountain by Erri de Luca:

I speak with Rafaniello.  Today we've got the time.  Don't you ever miss your hometown? I ask.

“When you get homesick, it's not something missing, it's something present, a visit.  People and places keep you company for a while.”

So when I start feeling like I miss someone I should think that they're present instead?

“Exactly, that way you'll remember to greet every absence and welcome it in.”

So when you've flown away, I shouldn't miss you?

“No,” he says, “when you start to think of me it'll mean that I'm with you.”

I write down what Rafaniello said about homesickeness on the scroll and now it's better.  His way with thoughts is like his way with shoes.  He turns them upside down on his bench and fixes them.


This February, when Andrew met a friend for a coffee at Piazza Navona, the friend gave him her copy of Unaccustomed Earth to pass on to me.  (In an Austerian aside: I ask Andrew if it was in fact February, when he met with Gyneth.  He checks his calendar and says yes, the twenty-sixth.  Which, I realize now, was Noor's birthday.)

Anyway.  The line is the same:

There were times Ruma felt closer to her mother in death than she had in life, an intimacy born simply of thinking of her so often, of missing her.

These lines are the same, too:

Of the two hundred and eighteen saris, she kept only three, placing them in a quilted zippered bag at the back of her closet, telling her mother's friends to divide up the rest.  And she had remembered the many times her mother had predicted this very moment, lamenting the fact that her daughter preferred pants and skirts to the clothing she wore, that there would be no one to whom to pass on her things.

Except I didn't count the saris.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[domenica 29 marzo 2015 ore 11:01:07] []


I've been to enough cultural events in Italy by now not to be unnerved by the chaos that seems to envelop them.  No one is sure exactly where the session is to take place, the man who looks after the sound system cannot be located, the interpreter is up in arms because no one has informed her of the running order, etcetera, etcetera.  Yet when the hour arrives, everything goes off smoothly: the audience miraculously knows where to come, the sound system works, the interpreter does a first-class job.  The chaos turns out to have been spurious: we can run an event perfectly efficiently, the Italians seem to be saying, without fetishizing efficiency—in fact, we can turn the running of an event into a diverting little comic drama of its own.

— from Here and Now: Letters, 2008-2011 by Paul Auster and JM Coetzee.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[venerdì 27 marzo 2015 ore 10:22:11] []

The Day Before Equilipse and Other Stories

What can I tell you this afternoon, little one.  The pile of books on your bedside-table gets higher, wobblier, more surely a sign of all the things you cannot signify.  That you cannot signify.  Yesterday someone said hey, you know that streak of gray you have at your left temple?  We call that a voglia d'amore.  And it's like so many things that happened yesterday if you think about them with your eyes closed and your fists uncurled.  It's only March and yet the year feels already traitorous.  Already you can tell she is not your friend, this one.  It's only March.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[venerdì 20 marzo 2015 ore 16:30:07] []

This is how we leave the world.

Così è come lasciamo il mondo,
con il cuore piangente,
e la fiducia che la distanza
porti il prodigio risolutivo
di un'ultima chiara visione
prima del lungo sonno
sopra i cambiamenti del tempo.

— da “Porte della cabina in modalità automatica” di Il cavallo parlante e la ragazza triste e il villaggio sotto il mare da Mark Haddon.


This is how we leave the world,
with the heart weeping,
and the hope that distance
brings the solving wonder
of one last clear view
before that long sleep
above the weather's changes.

— from “Cabin Doors to Automatic” in The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea by Mark Haddon.


On the airport bus, he opened his father's copy of the Psalms.  The black Hebrew letters only gaped at him like open mouths with tongues hanging down, pointing upward, flaming but dumb.  He tried — forcing.  It did no good.  The tunnel, the swamps, the auto skeletons, machine entrails, dumps, gulls, sketchy Newark trembling in fiery summer, held his attention minutely...  Then in the jet running with concentrated fury to take off — the power to pull away from the magnetic earth; and more: When he saw the ground tilt backward, the machine rising from the runway, he said to himself in clear internal words, “Shema Yisrael,” Hear, O Israel, God alone is God!  On the right, New York leaned gigantically seaward, and the plane with a jolt of retracted wheels turned toward the river.  The Hudson green within green, and rough with tide and wind.  Isaac released the breath he had been holding, but sat belted tight.  Above the marvelous bridges, over clouds, sailing in atmosphere, you know better than ever that you are no angel.

— from many places. First, and originally of course, from “The Old System” by Saul Bellow.  Second, and the way I came to it, from How Fiction Works by James Wood.  Third, and the way I found it today to copy-paste here (more or less verbatim), from this piece on gratitude, that Wood wrote in April of 2005, just after Bellow died.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[sabato 07 marzo 2015 ore 20:20:20] []

I decide she is Georgian.

On the flight home (and you catch yourself asking, which one?) I have a window seat.  The girl next to me is young and fresh and sinuous — all cotton and clean skin, all legs and lazy beauty.  She spends most of the flight from Dubai to Rome on either one of her two iPhones (a 4 and a 6).  She writes long Slavic-lettered things in the Notes app — long like you wouldn't expect from someone so millennial.  I decide she is Georgian, because she reminds me of a girl I knew from Georgia.  The same coolwater eyes that have never been tired, the same sense that this body is exactly right and exactly mine.  She keeps leaving her seat to walk down the aisle in her socks and her flip-flops and her ethnic-embroidered magenta-colored Aladdin pants, all the way to the one seatless window by the galley kitchen where she bends over at the waist and props her elbows on the bottom of the oval and watches, watches, watches.  And inside the plane they watch her — Italians going home to all kinds of mothers, literal and economic and otherwise.  Immigrants going back to lives I should know more about, maybe and maybe not.  Outside the sky stands still around us.  White-blue and bottomless like the idea of light.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[venerdì 06 marzo 2015 ore 20:20:20] []