the task

Why did you set yourself the task of pushing the rock up the slope I asked.

He turned to look at me and released his grasp. The stone slid on the grass, picked up speed and sped past.

He frowned and blinked fast and set off down the hill again.

You’re not the first to ask, he said, and you won’t be the last.

Piazza Mazzini

The benches in the new square are made of old marble. Children trace their fingers across eroded inscriptions and call out random letters and words. Cars double circle the square, prayers for a parking space unheard at this hour.

The yellow dog in the blackest shade of the trees lifts its head as if to question life, shakes its ears loose and lays down again, one rear paw twitching. It does not move when the rain starts; it knows its place is dry. Parents grasp children and run through the lines of cars, pressing their backs against the walls and windows of shops, sheltering below the mock-baroque balconies.

As street vendors circle the square with hastily procured umbrellas, the rain suddenly stops. Pavements steam and waiters wipe tables. The dog lifts its head again. 

Lecce, 19 September 2021