X Marked the Spot
~ Scopello, Sicily, 2018
We arrived— after hours of being up in the air, with the uncertainty of crossing the Atlantic, and landing not once, but in three hard skips: Nice to Rome to Palermo. Cautiously, we stepped out of the plane and floated down its metal stairs with our luggage in tow. We could take a breath now. There we were on the tarmac, squinting in the too bright sun, looking back over our shoulders at massive rock outcroppings that surrounded us. We became giddy facing our prospects.
Moving forward is travel’s well-kept secret. Little did we know that we would turn around, and around, until we found where we were going. We rented a car. We had several maps and the coordinates for our villa’s location in Scopello. We had three hours of daylight, and smugly thought how hard could this be? Once off the highway, we were spit out onto switchback mountain roads that went up to come down, and go back up again. Signage, at bends in the road, listed towns and restaurants—wooden arrows pointing in all directions. We read them blankly every time we passed them, until they became the landmarks we would never see.
Beware of barking dogs, working in pairs, chasing foreign diesel cars. They snarled and screamed; hell-bent on keeping us from turning around. The bitch, with her ten dragging teats, meant business. She stood ready, letting her brooding partner rest in the heat—lying down in the middle of the road, among shattered beer bottles. Nothing deterred them.
How slowly this day dissolved into its shades of blue—sky into sea— and the soft smudge of shadows pooling in every mountain recess. We had gone silent watching the road, looking for the turn we missed.
X marked the spot. That moment when the car engine switched off and we just sat there in certain disbelief, looking at the stucco villa, with its orange tile roof, and its flimsy wire fence. In truth, X was our feet kissing the ground when we stepped out of the car, knowing we had left our worldly comforts to be here— standing on this cliff— overlooking an expansive sea.
M.J. Iuppa, born to Sicilian-American parents, from the medieval mountain fortress town of Geraci, Sicily, is the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College; and since 2000 to present, is a part time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. Since 1986, she has been a teaching artist, working with students, K-12, in Rochester, NY, and surrounding area. Most recently, she was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching, 2017. She has four full length poetry collections, This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017), Small Worlds Floating(2016) as well as Within Reach (2010) both from Cherry Grove Collections; Night Traveler (Foothills Publishing, 2003); and 5 chapbooks. She lives on a small farm in Hamlin NY.