Tuesday, August 03, 2010


It pains me to confront how much my Italian has faded. While I was busy sharpening my German, or reading poetry in French, this vowely language that I once had a good grasp of began ebbing away. I went to the post office today and drew a blank at the word for stamp! I made my way around it. But later I was buying cheese and couldn't remember the word for goat. That was nearly too much for me.

I'm putting this little chapter down in my big book of defeat.

There is a word that is hard to forget, however: zanzara.
It has sting and speed. It has zing. It has zap and alacrity.
The mosquito is pendulous and slow, a smoky hovering presence you only know when it's gone.
But the zanzara puts itself plainly in sight as an adversary.
Like a good student of geometry, it knows the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
And it knows that evading the slap requires zig and zag.
Zanzara is a perfect Italian word, exact and very accurate.
It rides the air like the intonation of your best Italian sentence.

1 comment:

Fresca said...

Oh! Yes! And another biting "z" word in Italian is "zenzero", which means ginger, as you probably know.

(Hello, by the way. Art Sparker directed me over here because I'd raged about how much I hated the movie "Eat Pray Love." Your alternate version was a treat, like ginger root dipped in chocolate, and no mosquitoes. Thanks.)

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