Murmurs

Standing, in a narrow lane in Florence, just steps from the Arno, voices from above him, from the open window, where socks hang from a rope strung round a wheel between windows that look down upon cobblestones where Dante, too, had roamed in such a dawn as this, perhaps listening, as he listens, to the sounds of morning echoed in the mouths of mothers tapping spoons on the rims of pots. Two black socks float above him, limp shadows, whose absent feet voice a daily lament. A man is speaking to a woman he has known long enough to use that tone that transcends language itself, the knowing lilt of age, of living in a body that no longer serves a mind that lives no longer on hope but the sad affirmations of a world run by youth. The man speaks. He snaps his newspaper. The woman responds. Annoyed, doubtful, tired of hearing what they both already know. A tea kettle whistles somewhere in another apartment further up the lane. The sound of the whistle lingers for a moment beyond its removal from the stove. The old man coughs deep in his chest. His chair scrapes against the floor. A moment later he spits. There are other sounds from other windows. Other voices. Children. Other mothers. The words are indistinct. The words are Italian. He hears the voices of the cobblestones speaking out across time. He hears the window, the sash is thrown open with a hollow clack and hands emerge, hands attached to arms that carried bodies in the war. The rope moves, the rusted pulley-wheel squeaks, the socks jerk like tadpoles in the pond of his youth, the hands remove the wooden clips, she puts them in her mouth, the socks are gone. He hears the chair again, the wooden legs against the wooden floor. The sound of the socks as the old man pulls them on his stubborn feet requires no translation.

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