‘Visso. Never forget my name.
Voices breathe through my crevices
scrambled with fennel and mallow.
My stone-cutters chiselled the serpents
that curve, skin to skin, over this broken doorway.
Wood-carvers polished to a sheen
the Redeemer Christ bringing both humble
and arrogant to their knees in hard times.
I cultivated thinkers, schooled them in logic
and philosophy, apprenticed artists
to embody their dreams in chapels and palaces.
My castellated walls shielded soldiers
and shop-keepers. I gave birth to a Pope.’
A town without people.
Now the schools have fallen,
where will the children learn?
Church roofs have imploded,
their frescoes exposed to rain,
where will the people pray?
The walls of their homes fallen in,
kitchens smashed to rubble,
where can they house their memories?
One year on and nothing’s been done.
Domenico the shepherd’s still in his caravan,
every few months moving his flock
between high pastures and low valleys.
Pierino and Rosa, now in their eighties,
live in a shed. They’re prepared to wait,
are used to a simple life, but last winter’s
snow and frost and this summer’s
African heat have been hard to take.
One year on but this has changed:
On the outskirts, close to a clear lake fed
by the icy, fast-flowing Nera, tents are set up,
cubicles for temporary toilets, pine huts,
a bar selling cappuccinos, fresh pastry.
At lunch for six euro they offer lasagne,
pizza in the evenings. No festival but
there will be music and dancing tonight.
In here you can buy cuts of wild boar hams,
salamis and sheep’s cheese. You’ll find maps,
postcards recalling Piazza Martiri Vissani,
the great collegiate church, Palazzo dei Priori.
Monte Vettore, Devil’s Peak,
Monte Sibilla, Hell’s Throat:
see them rise over the clouds,
violet, insubstantial, innocent,
while on a rock above the forest
a chamois goat (the year before last
nearly extinct) holds her balance
and guides her young.
* Visso was one of the small towns in the
Sibillini mountains, Italy,hit by a major
earthquake in August 2016 and again
in October 2016. Although it is badly
damaged, unlike in others towns closer
to the epicentre, no lives were lost.