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;
grazie: thank-you;
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.