11 August 2010
from "The land of unhappy brides"
No one is aware that only a few steps from their baby basket they have fostered indescribably shocking places. Of all the stories we heard as tikes, I always got stuck on the ones about mejere, witches who become horses, and devils who attempted to redeem themselves by becoming pious men only to reassume the forms of wild animals. The stories that yielded the popular iconography of our city were always dismal – a man married a woman and discovered she was a mejere, that she, after having forced her husband to eat broth every day (all the while pretending to do likewise but with a fork), fed on the cadavers in the hidden tombs of San Martino’s cathedral, and then she disappeared into the misty night like those autumn nights of Martina and its valley of figs and bramble. Odd stories of water changing mejere into animals, of the city hosting thousands of these mutant beings, these cat-men, these horse-women, who by day spoke suavely and by night meowed, barked, or whinnied like famished, solitary creatures. In this town full of enigmatic were-creatures, legends of shapeshifting, and demonic hordes, you cannot not listen to the thousand stories about surprising, unforeseeably surprising places. Whoever told stories about the Holy Grail or the Wondering Jew being in the field near Barsento would be laughed at, and yet we all, at least once in our lives, would happen across a storyteller, a charlatan, a finangler, a imploring bull-shitter, a sorry bum ranging the province, with a mysterious dialect without vowels, in which the rules of phonetics seek their last rights before slipping into occult memory. That abominable being, laden with stupid, superstitious rants, with his face like a country priest or perhaps wearing an expression disfigured by the unmistakable wrinkles of disdain, would take us aside and lead us some place we never would have believed possible. This genus included characters like Cito, Fulco, Mimo, Cenzoum, and very shortly, with fanfare playing, yours truly would arrive in pompa magna. So mindful of judgments on and by others, yet so taken with myself, my narcissism, my sense of guilt, my willingly turbid fate, fated to an ineluctable condemnation.