A Map of Sicily
by Marie Luise Kaschnitz
I’ll draw the outline for you. It’s a wing
From the shoulder of the victory goddess.
The side view is a chunk of rugged mountain
Arrested in the brightness of the sun,
The sea around it covering the plain
With sand and seaweed and with schools of fish.
Striated lines are for steep elevations.
The river valleys are left blank.
The toothed crown means the mountain where the wedding
Of fire and ice takes place. Move in a little
Around the table. Look, I tip the oil jug.
Wherever you see drops fall on the table
Is where the black and silver olives grow.
Wherever I drop breadcrumbs, think of crops
On the red hills, the wide range of the ploughshares.
The salt I pour, this whiteness in the east
Stands for food from the ocean, salt and fish;
The lemon wedge, a piece of the yellow moon,
For shade of arbors, sweetly scented flowers.
I’ll draw red arrows clear across the ocean,
One from the mainland, one from Africa,
One from Peloponnesus, one from Spain,
To show you the routes of foreign conquerors.
Now run out to the garden path and bring
Some small white pebbles. Don’t they look to you
Like cupolas and temples in the moonlight—
But watch, I’ll stamp my feet
And they shake and dance;
Nothing can keep from falling in an earthquake.
I’ll pull the lamp forward and push it back,
Pull it forward again. Now light. Now darkness.
Splendor and death, eternal argument.
Where is the little peasant that I kneaded
Out of a piece of bread? Still there, as always
Hands on his hoe. Bent down a little more
Than at the start. And now, what is all this?
Bread, blood and stone. A piece of the Western world.
PHOTO: Catania, Sicily, Italy, with Mt. Etna in the background. Photo by Leonid Andronov, used by permission.
NOTE: Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Metropolitan City of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania. It is the highest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps, with a current height of 10,912 ft. Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and is in an almost constant state of activity. The fertile volcanic soil supports extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south. Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations. In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.