The room is dark, on a low table a candle is burning, lighting a red curtain, a narrow bed, the corner of a crumpled piece of paper. A man’s body, young, emaciated, he has thrown off the sheet, his long white face is covered in sweat. His eyes are closed, perhaps for good. The sickening odour of sulphur. Outside an owl is calling and yellow plumes of smoke are rising from the damp ground.
When I first came to Naples I thought I would live forever.
At the foot of the bed a boy, eating a pear. When he has finished the pear the man will open his eyes and attempt to speak.
O Clemens, o pia…
His thin hands trace notes in the air.
The boy’s head is like a golden helmet. Or covered in dark, shaggy curls, a shepherd boy from the Campania.
How sweet to look upon the face of this boy! He is innocent of anything worse than stealing a pear. If I’m thirsty he’ll bring me wine to drink, never vinegar. Sometimes he plays with the cat, I watch them out of the tiny slits at the bottom of my eyes, for my eyes will not open any more, neither can I turn my head. But I catch sight through the slits: the cat’s paw reaching for a bit of string, the boy’s face, laughing, a glint of sunshine thrown across the floor, an owl’s feather, tiny and curled white and marked with delicate black semi-quavers.
misericordes oculos ad nos converte…
She turns her eyes and looks at me. A blood red ruby.
Download the podcast (music: Pergolesi’s Salve Regina by Barbara Schlick—public domain; bells by Grace Andreacchi)
Grace Andreacchi (website) is an American-born novelist, poet and playwright currently living in London. Works include the novels Scarabocchio and Poetry and Fear, Music for Glass Orchestra (Serpent’s Tail), Give My Heart Ease (New American Writing Award) and the chapbook Berlin Elegies. Her work appears in Horizon Review, The Literateur, Cabinet des Fées and many other fine places. Grace is also managing editor at Andromache Books and writes the literary blog Amazing Grace.