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“ . . . saw little of note except . . . fortunately the Duomo was on that walk . . . ”: from a letter

The Duomo cathedral hung its own weather above you. A light fog, full-massed as gray silk, hovered as a helicopter might for some yet-to-ascend saint. You heard noise where hidden workmen chipped away at the eves of the roof or at the thumbnails of gargoyles that guarded leaky ceiling points; you imagined a man living a decade hip-deep in rose-white marble he carved into adornments and placed atop columns or attached to the flying buttresses. You, at six feet tall, knew you were as large as a small leaf at the point of a window’s curve, or as small as a crack you could not have seen above you on the clearest day. It had been years since you had been a Catholic and you thought it showed, but you could have stood there forever. Nights at home you sit up for hours after your family is asleep, the black dog comes, and you write another story; characters speak aloud. The dog howls. You hear it as you heard the workmen of the Duomo. Do they go a little crazy some nights, too? You know you want to live long enough to do the right thing, and yet something old that you never expected to be everywhere you went says, “I dare you. Starve for art; throw the pee-colored snake oil vials away, the ones you schlepp country to country. Go on” disappear into an Italian film, be the one to run away to Sicily and hang out, eating fruit with that brown-eyed girl you saw in Milan, her body as lively as any of the best sets of lines Matisse ever slapped perfectly alive on canvas.”