Luogo di Pietra

In the portico of the palazzo I pick up a stone the size of small egg, it is made of red chalcedony, there is a face carved into it, a fish perhaps, or a bird. A fish, it has lips. We go out onto the shore, we are waiting for the tide, we will go swimming. Here the people bring their food wrapped in dense white silks spun by spiders and afterwards leave them on the sand where hermit crabs find and crawl into them. The grey-brown sea sluices in among the black rocks, I see flashes of green and purple as the crabs drag their silks deeper into crevices or bury themselves in the sand. Tides are brief and violent on this coast, no sooner am I down among the bathers in the bottom pool than the water begins to recede; but instead of heading back to shore we stamp our feet, we move our bodies, we dance. I see my sisters coming from the north, picking their way towards us among the gleaming outcrops. This must be an island, now we are on the other side, another shore, here are intricate, upstanding, tubular seashells in Etruscan colours, yellows and reds and browns, they are shaped like a kind of pasta, they are everywhere. I see in the light falling across the sand that there are many precious stones here too, feldspar, chrysoprase, beryl and more, some are antique, they have been worked long ago and then abandoned to lie upon this shore. A crook of amber with silver intaglio. A pile of lapis lazuli, mined in Bactria, that reveals an ineffable blue when water pours over it. Polished boulders of peridot, that green olivine. I pick up some of the shellfish and take them to the restaurant to ask if they are edible? Of course, the man says, and when you are tired of them, you can go further south and you will find other kinds of food, just as good, but different. A small boy with a stick and a hoop is playing across the tesserae of the courtyard. Later, as we are leaving, paying a small tariff for the privilege of being here, I show my hostess the egg-like stone I have carried all through this dream, I want to return it to her but she smiles, ever gracious and says no, keep it, we have so much, goodbye ... I wake with my hand curled around a stone and begin immediately to work upon it, carving the vulvine lips just as I remember them, the crooked eyes, the slight ridge at the back that might be a forehead or might simply be a mark left there yet despite aeons of rolling in the sea.

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