Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews   entry Aug 2019    
This is an excerpt from Marius Kociejowski's The Serpent Coiled in Naples, chapter 13.
To create an easy reference in the excerpts table, below, I used the tag "Two Women."
The author's original heading for his chapter is

Chapter Thirteen
he Animate Lives of Things Inanimate

Carmen Pellegrino and Teresa Cervo

If I were to take a parallel rule such as the fine boxwood one with brass hinges that my father used when he was a ship’s navigator and that, like so many other objects from my childhood has vanished where do the things of this world go? ― and on a map of Naples align the top edge of it with via dei Tribunali and then draw a line along the bottom edge, I’d be able to position on the same latitude the two women whose stories I’m about to relate. Why this sudden recollection of an object that had been nowhere in the upper or even the nethermost regions of consciousness? And why here? Might it be the things we believe inanimate are invested with a spirit that only certain conditions release? A holy fool once said to me that all things, even stones, are possessed of a soul. It should please him, that I’m about to embark on matters that involve stones that communicate and the making of objects that subsequently acquire lives of their own. A couple of women have salvaged from the seabed of my memories my father’s parallel rule. They ask, in my reveries and nowhere else, that I situate them in the same creative groove. It is only a ten-minute walk between where they live, but as far as I know the one has no inkling of the other. One day I might introduce them although maybe it’s best to leave things be. One cannot force friendship, any more than one can force a smile or even, for that matter, a simile.
One of the women comes from a small village in the Cilento region of Campania and the other was born in Naples. The first is no less a native of the city than the second, which supports my view that it is quite possible to become Neapolitan if only on a metaphysical plane. My landlady Melania, when we first met, informed me I was already one and I’d been in the city for only a week. As she is a denizen of Forcella and has a serpent tattooed on her ankle I will take what she says as irrefutable. So what if I don’t speak the language: I am not waiting to be given the key to a city whose lock I picked at first glance. As for the two ladies I’m about to introduce one is a writer and the other an artist and the reason they are here is that in both, although one is not quite from Naples, I find the embodiment of many of the city’s elements that have so completely taken hold of me. They, both of them, do a good line in death although their common aim is life.

Carmen Pellegrino always wears black, even in high summer, and if thereabouts it is as murderously hot as it’s said to be, something I’d rather not investigate myself, then enquiries ought to be made as to her physical constitution, whether she suffers inordinately from the cold or if she is of another species altogether. She does as soul dictates. Some people only think they do. Most are afraid to. It’s only the rare few who disengage themselves from what the world would have them do. The black she wears is not the black of style; it is what country women wear, or at least used to, as a perpetual sign of mourning although it can also be a declaration of modesty. Seen from afar, and with fanciful eyes, they might be said to be lamenting an Italy drained by many years of emigration and, more recently, by a sense of inner betrayal, political and otherwise, that has increasingly driven people into themselves. Only charlatans chasing after votes blame outside influences. The country is perfectly capable of breaking its own heart. You wonder how this can be, given the history, the culture, and the agreeableness of its people. Surely there isn’t a stiletto hidden behind every smile. "Ahi serva Italia, di dolore ostello / nave sanza nocchiere in gran tempesta, / non donna di provincie, ma bordello!* ["Abject Italy, an inn of sorrows, a pilotless ship on a stormy sea, a princess not of provinces but a bordello."] 
*Dante, Purgatorio, Canto VI, lines 76-78.

She has published two novels, Cade la terra (The Earth Falls, 2015) and Se mi tornassi questa sera accanto (If Tonight I Went Back Next Door, 2017) and is currently working on a third [...] ..."I’m currently working on a book about child suicides. You don’t want to know about it, nobody does, but it exists. In this modern society removing death and sadness from our discourse is actually condemning us to unhappiness. It allows us to die without anyone taking account of the fact.

Teresa Cervo. One evening as I walked up the vico that leads from the corner of Piazza Domenico Maggiore towards via dei Tribunali I became yet again conscious of the fact that I have allowed too much to slip away from me. Several times I went back there, but the entrance was sealed by a heavy metal door, no sign on it as to what might be inside. My curiosity had already begun to wane a little when one morning I saw a woman sweeping the street at the open entrance, over her shoulder a dimly lit atelier of some kind. I asked her if one could go inside and she told me to come back later. She had the slightly weary look of one who has had to field one tourist too many. Who could blame her? She was merely protecting her zone. When I returned I found her busy at her worktable, putting the finishing touches to a paper sculpture, a doe-like creature with a female face, small horns and three humps out of which grew leafless branches constructed of wire. I could have said papier mâché, but it wouldn’t be quite right for what she does. It would be like saying of a painter that he does nice pictures, but then I’d rather not talk about art because that would be to get myself into an even deeper tangle. I’m after what drives it. What Teresa Cervo does is both art and papier mâché, but there is something else in it that defies categorisation, which summons forth a chain of associations that want not to go easily into prose.
"May I look?"
She nodded assent.
"May I take photographs?"
I knew immediately I’d like her.

These are the chapters in Marius Kociejowski's The Serpent Coiled in Naples that currently have small excerpts on Naples, Life, Death & Miracles. There is also an extra item from the same author.

Ch.1 - introductionCh.2 - An Octopus in Forcella Ch.3 - Listening to Naples  - Ch.4 - Lake Averno -
Ch. 5- Street music - Ch.6 - Leopardi - Ch.7 - R.di Sangro  - Ch.8 - Old Bones - Ch.9 - The Devil  - Ch.10- Signor Volcano -  
Ch.10 (2) (3)Ch.11- Pulcinella  -  Ch.12 - Boom - Boom (2) - Ch.13 -Two Women (above) - Ch.14- The Ghost Palace
Ch.15- An Infintesimal Particle - (extra) Riccardo Carbone, photographer.

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