The Piazza Senza Banco, Long After
James B. Nicola
How high the dollar soared, I recollect,
way back in 1984—so high
I mustered the means, barely, and back
I flew. A dollar rising, though, means
a fall in what the dollar’s being
traded for, and all that means. . . . One fall
day in a Piazza famous for
something Old Worldish as grand piazzas
are, flagstone-paved and vast as it was old,
I heard and noted, rising from the stones,
CLOK CLIK CLOK CLIK then heard Buona sera
in Italian, then CLOK CLIK CLOK CLIK . . .
Now, everybody knew that Italians
made the best shoes in the word; I knew
each person from the shoes’ plangent echoes,
rhythm, pause—each personality.
CLIP CLIP CLIP Buona sera [no pause
this time, but instantly:] CLIP CLIP CLIP . . .
CRUK CLOP CRUK Buona sera [An instant’s
hesitation] CLOP CRUK CLOP . . . But then:
. . . CLOP CLUK !!clingggg!! Grazie! CLOP CLUK . . . Each
Buona sera sounded as if CLUKed
by a sour bird whispering. The sound of
Grazie, though, came from no sour throat
but from the cold flagstone, even though
the voice was neither cold nor sour for
that one word. I watched the voice, then thought
perhaps I was rude in watching. So:
!!clingggg!! (My sneakers had not echoed.) I
turned to go, forgetting what the !!clingggg!!
meant: Grazie, of course. So I turned
back, saw her nod, and resumed my course,
the Piazza’s sounds reverting back
to CLIKS, CLAKS, and other-worldly sounds
of Buona sera breaking the CLIK-
CLAK, sometimes (Buona sera is the
Italian for Good evening). . . . Sometimes
I think, since Italians often wear
sneakers today, while I wear Italian
shoes, the sounds might be reversed today,
but that the coins would make the same sound—!!clingggg!! —
when collected, as cento lira coins.
NB: senza banco: without a bench;
cento lira: 100 lira, the Italian currency before the euro
About the Author
James B. Nicola, a returning contributor, is the author of five collections of poetry, plus the upcoming Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense. His decades of working in the theater as a stage director, composer, lyricist, playwright, and acting teacher culminated in the nonfiction book Playing the Audience: The Practical Guide to Live Performance, which won a Choice award.