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I believe in artichokes

Italy did ruin me. After that first trip I came back disgusted by bodega coffee, which now smelled of old socks. Before, it was just fine. I rolled my eyes at red sauce joints, detouring old standbys like a stranger. If eating can be seen as a religious or spiritual experience I had been to the mountain. In time I would return on pilgrimages, always holding the simple pleasures in my thoughts.  An artichoke, methodically fried in good olive oil, with some salt. Black truffles, good butter and fresh pasta twisting around the back of a fork. A very cold and tiny glass of porto bianco sipped in a Genoa bar, with my friend Federico. A man cleaning sardines on a block of wood in the street. A woman selling green figs that she wraps into a newspaper cone. I have thousands of these memories, these artifacts. But I live in Moscow, where there has been an embargo for years now, and there is no population that expects perfect mounds of fresh cheese. They ship powdered palm oil here, that gets …

the sculpture garden


Emerging like a white slug, its pale underbelly translucent in the afternoon sun. That is how Spring came. Soft, pathetic, vulnerable. I see creosote black chunks of snow on the dead grass. I sense the dust in the air, not early flowers, just a burnt chemical smell, of ozone. Spring is late, with a half-baked apology in its coat pocket.

The windows are open. Stray dogs are sleeping in loose groups in the mud, no longer fighting over bones from the trash, no longer running up and down the icy sidewalk looking for handouts. Their vacation has begun.

I feel uncomfortable, lost.

In the back pocket of my jeans is a piece of paper that went through the wash. Pages fused together, unrecognizable, but clean. That is how I feel. Peel me apart and you will find nothing but some scribbles that were soaped and spun into nothing. A few letters to trace, a receipt for some vegetables.



I get E to school on time. I pick her up like a Swiss clock, turning the corner of the playground at 6 every day. She loves her birthday toys so much. They keep her awake late, until she is exhausted.

N comes and goes like a little bird, chirping jokes in my ear. She grows more beautiful to me every day.

But when I look in the mirror, my face looks thousands of miles away.

Last night I dreamt about a sculpture garden. It was a memory crammed full of details. I think it was in Munich, about 15 years ago.


The place is lush and green. Great trees throw long shadows across thick grass. People move in small groups. Women's arms are draped through the elbows of men. Hushed conversations are shared. There is a faint smell of lilacs. We move on a great rise overlooking the city - but what city? It is not Munich. It looks more like Rome now. The sculptures are bronze - patinaed and smooth. I rest my hand on one, feeling the chill of Spring now. A guard comes towards me, waves me off. You are not supposed to touch them.

The sculptures are realistic, perfectly proportioned - all caught in perfect gestures. Dolphins, dancing maidens, a lion, a wedding. I wander the place, doubling back across small paths, seeing and re-seeing them. Music is swirling around my head - Claire de Lune by Debussy, playing over and over. It is a magnificent place. It gives me goosebumps. I spend long afternoons here, eating some lunch on a bench. The silence is intoxicating.

I wake up, and try to remember visiting this place. I search for it on the computer, and understand I have never been there, because it does not exist. 

But I know the park. I have surely been there.

Comments

Omgrrrl said…
A. Spring is late, with a half-baked apology in its coat pocket. FREAKING BRILLIANT!

2. You have been there. You felt the sculpture.

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