Davide, following his own train of thought, remarked with a futile smile:

"Me, when I was a kid like you, I wanted to be an explorer, I wanted to see everything, do everything ... But now," he added with a gesture of weakness and almost nauseated lack of appetite, "I don't even feel like raising my hand, or going anyplace ... But one of these days I'll have to go to work! I want to do manual labor, something hard, so when I come home at night I'll be tired and I won't be able to think anymore! ... Do you think much?"

"Me? ... yes, I think."

"What do you think about?"

Here Bella made a sound, to encourage Useppe. He wriggled on his little legs, looked at her, then looked at Davide again.

"I make poems!" he told him, blushing with secrecy and trust.

"Ah! Yes, I had heard you're a poet!"

"Who from?!" Useppe glanced at Bella, the only one who knew ... (But actually, it had been Nino who, boasting to his friend of his, famous if spurious little brother, had said to him, among other things: "If you ask me, he'll be a poet or a champion! You ought to see him jump! And hear him talk!")

"You mean you already write poems?" Davide resumed, ignoring Useppe's question.

"Nnooo ... I don't want to wite... I ... no ... " (as, usual, in moments of emotion or confusion, Useppe lapsed into his erroneous, abbreviated baby's utterance) I think the poems ... and I say them ... "

"Who do you say them to?"

"To her!" Useppe nodded toward Bella, who wagged her tail.

"Say them to me, too, if you remember them."

"No, I don't remember ... I think them, then I forget them right away. There's lots of them ... but little! LOTS, though! I think them when I'm by myself, and even when I'm not by myself, I think some sometimes!"

"Think one now!"


Immediately, Useppe frowned, beginning to think. But just one isn't big enough ... " he remarked, shaking his head, " ... now I'll think a lot of different ones, and I'll say them to you!" The better to concentrate, he shut his eyes so hard his eyelids wrinkled. Then a moment later, when he reopened them, his gaze, like songbirds', seemed to follow a shifting, luminous point out of eyeshot. At the same time, accompanied by a swaying of his legs, his airy, shy little voice began to chant:

    Stars like trees and rustle like trees.
    The sun on the ground like a handful of little chains and rings.
    The sun all like lots of feathers a hundred a thousand feathers.
    The sun up in the air like lots of steps of buildings.
    The moon like a stairway and at the top Bella looks out and hides.
    Sleep canaries folded up like two roses.
    The ttars like swallows saying hello to each other. And in the trees.
    The river like pretty hair. And the pretty hair.
    The fish like canaries. And they fly away.
    And the leaves like wings. And they fly away.
    And the horse like a flag.
    And he flies away.

From --- History: A Novel
Elsa Morante
©2000 Steerforth Press

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