There were two sets of stairs:
the front ones curving and formal
while the backstairs rose steep
as a canyon wall. As a girl, I used to fly
from their heights when I wasn’t falling.

And now I climb a footbridge
to what remains
of Civita di Bagnoregio, a small hilltown
like an island in the sky, surrounded
by spectacular nothingness.

Moments ago, I was terrified
looking up at the projected journey,
but now, safely inside the walls,
there’s a rush of energy, a feeling
of never being more inside my body,

exploring small lanes
over two thousand years old
that all end at the brink.
The stone church with relics of Bonaventura,
a wooden manger in an Etruscan cave,

a bruschetta with garlic toasted over coals,
and a framed photo of a man on a horse
barrelling down
an earlier incarnation of the footbridge,
his face lit by something wild.

My older brother’s room was at the top
of our backstairs. I am haunted still
by the sounds of his weeping
beyond the door. But other times
there were the golden notes of his trumpet,

creating a space in his bedroom
for something so much larger.
I hear him playing Bach
in this Italian town where every century or so
another house or lane lets go.

Annie Deppe is the author of Sitting in the Sky and Wren Cantata. She lives (mostly) on the west coast of Ireland.

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