One summer long ago, I took the train to the town of Giarre, between Taormina and Catania. Climbed the green slopes of Mount Etna. Picked cactus pear beset with spines, armed with glochids, growing, coral, on rocks.

I walked through an alley of cypresses by the winding cemetery road. I told you of things, you had often asked. About the sirocco blood rain, red dust-laden wind of the Sahara desert. The island off the tip of the boot. I stacked words into lines. Arid, semiarid subtropical. Cerulean Ionian Sea. Azure skies. And I told you how I learned to love its heat, that summer long ago,

learned to love its tile-roofed houses. Colour of ochre yellow limestone. Shuttered windows and balconies. The odour of deep-fried arancini, stuffed rice balls, wafting through. Zesty lemon granita. How I bargained a souvenir, a wheel thrown pottery water jug, decorated with scarlet roses. And learned that “bedda” means beautiful. In summers long ago,

ebb tide in the sand

receding from the shoreline

orange full moon

Ilona Martonfi