from Conversations in Sicily by Elio Vittorini

Still smoking I went outside. Cra, cra, cra, shouted the ravens flying through the ashen sky. I went down into the street, went along the street of that Sicily which was no longer a journey, but motionless, and I smoked and cried.

“Ah! Ah! He’s crying! Why is he crying?” shouted the crows among themselves, following behind me.

I continued my walk without answering, and an old black woman followed behind me too. “Why are you crying?” she asked.

I didn’t respond, and I went on, smoking, crying; and a tough guy who was waiting on the piazza with his hands in his pockets asked me too: “Why are you crying?”

He too followed behind me, and still crying, I passed in front of a church. The priest saw us, me and those following me, and asked the old woman, the tough guy, the crows: “Why is this man crying?”

He joined us, and some street urchins saw us and exclaimed:
“Look! He’s smoking and crying!””

They also said: “He’s crying because of the smoke!” And they followed behind me with the others, bringing their game along too.

In the same way a barber followed behind me and a carpenter, a man in rags, a girl with her head wrapped in a scarf, a second man in rags. They saw me and they asked: “Why are you crying?” Or they asked those who were already following me: “Why is he crying?” And they all became my followers: a cart driver, a dog, men of Sicily, women of Sicily, and finally a Chinaman. “Why are you crying?” they asked.

But I had no response to give them. I wasn’t crying for any reason. Deep down I wasn’t even crying; I was remembering; and in the eyes of others, my remembering looked like crying.

translated by Alane Salierno Mason