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The street is built into the steep mountainside,

hence ‘salita’, ‘slope’. It is a wide street of steps –

edged with granite, inlaid with pebbles

and set in cement bordered by brick.




From our balcony, there is an impassive,

inscrutable vista of the old town’s

semi-circular, interlocking

clay roof tiles of varying shades of

terracotta and the occasional

Moorish-style chimney – finally

the public gardens’ umbrella pines and

the Ionian Sea becoming sky.




At dusk, Arab street sellers climb the steps

slowly, their wares in torn sheets on their backs.

When the street light comes on a gecko appears

on the wall opposite and waits. Each time

a new video appears on the large

plasma screen in Piazza Vittorio

Emanuele walls even here flash blue.




Ten thousand residents of Taormina,

two million tourists each year – beginning

with Goethe – and such sounds… the commune’s band

on the Corso Umberto – brass playing

nostalgia, drums braggadocio;

enthusiastic French tourists in step

on the Via Don Bosco; petulant,

throaty Vespas on the narrow ring road;

dogs, out of sight in walled yards or hidden

by oleanders, yelping, baying;

a blackbird’s solitary ‘chook, chook’,

beneath the lemon trees and plumbago

on a neighbouring terrace; a quick bell

rung a dozen times for matins; the cruise ships’

sirens sounding, sounding… Tennesse

and Truman with their paramours laughing

freely on the terrace of the Caffé

Wunderbar; Taylor breaking a guitar

over Burton’s head in the Hotel

San Domenica; D.H. Lawrence

beating up Frieda just down the road from us

in the Villa Vecchia Fontana…




We have neighbours: the elegant woman,

opposite, with the basset hound, in a house

with raised grills on the windows and an ornate

wooden door set in an arch of marble;

someone, whom we never see, in the apartment

above, who whistles Vivaldi on the stairs;

in the apartment below, the Arab traders

smoking hash, talking quietly into the night –

their tee-shirts and cut-offs on an airer

outside their front door to dry in the dark;

the elderly owner of the Summer

Bazaar near the beach, who complains of Africans

selling their wares on the gritty sand,

and climbs down eighty steps and back each day

to descend and rise in the Funivia;

the beautiful girl, who, each morning

walks down to work at the alimentari

on the Via Timeo beside

the ruins of the Roman theatre…



A cloud burst brings water centimetres deep –

and laden with particles of pumice

from the mountain – cascading down the steps.

‘Giafari’ is a variant of

‘jafar’, Arabic for stream. Below us,

by the Arco Dei Cappucini,

a fountain flows from the rock – and watching

over us on the mountain’s edge are

the shrine to the Madonna of the Rock

and the walls of the Saracens’ Castle.




© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • John Huddart
    September 30, 2014

    This is a tour de force! Such a compelling narrative is poetic and novelistic. It is also almost good cinema in its loving attention to colour and detail. Ah those throaty vespas!

    The whole sequence bears witness to the beauty of the Mediterranean whilst portraying it’s historic fault lines with compelling accuracy and tenderness. It is these which also make the places so irresistible.

  • Claudio
    November 12, 2014

    E’ un vero piacere essere portati a vedere i posti che conosci e riconoscere persone e cose attraverso i versi e le parole di altri. E’ come vedere le stesse cose ma con altri occhi, come condividere una musica con gli amici e condividere lo stesso gusto per il bello. Questo, anche nel mio pessimo inglese, è stato quello che ho provato leggendo. Un’emozione legata al ritmo delle parole ed a quello che di non detto significano per chi sa leggere nei versi. Un codice che lega chi scrive e chi legge.

    It’s a real pleasure to be transported to the places you know – and recognise people and things through the verses and words of others. It’s like seeing the same things but with different eyes, sharing music with friends and sharing the same taste for a thing of beauty. This, even with my poor English, was what I’ve understood. An emotion tied to the rhythm of the words and not what the words say but what is left unsaid. A code that binds the writer and the reader. [trans. Selzerink]

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