Esmeralda, Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino


Along it went,

taking me through its roller coaster path

curving and zig-zagging,

ears ringing with the roaring heartbeats

I reached high above

raising my arm, I touched the giant moon

I sweeped through the roof dust,

watched the drama on the tenth level living room,

tried reaching the high oars of the boatmen

every turn, every movement loving my curiosity.



A sweet boatman ushered me on

“You will see a whole new world” he promised

moving gently along the narrow blue

I look up with awe

a sudden dash of a 3D movie feel,

the bridges and stairways rushed into me…

I smiled along…taking it in.



I see them coming up,

late evenings, their dark eyes from the hell

big-eyed, I follow

into the dark tunnels of crookedness,

they did not love my curiosity as the heavens did


I run,

but now the heavens seemed to have vanished!

the meandering pathways confusing..

I scream out

and up ahead I see the boatman

Relieved, I ran upto him..

the dark eyes disappeared in the darkness.



Later inside by the warmth and an expresso,

the boatman says

“here is the whole new world I promised!”



1 Comment

  1. anjali says:

    If you want to read about Esmeralda from Invisible u go..
    Marco Polo the traveller describes to Emperor Kublai Khan about the cities he has travelled to..
    In Esmeralda, city of water, a network of canals and a network of streets span and
    intersect each other. To go from one place to another you have always the choice
    between land and boat: and since the shortest distance between two points in
    Esmeralda is not a straight line but a zigzag that ramifies in tortuous optional
    routes, the ways that open to each passerby are never two, but many, and they
    increase further for those who alternate a stretch by boat with one on dry land.
    And so Esmeralda’s inhabitants are spared the boredom of following the same
    streets every day. And that is not all: the network of routes is not arranged on
    one level, but follows instead an up-and-down course of steps, landings, cambered
    bridges, hanging streets. Combining segments of the various routes, elevated or on
    ground level, each inhabitant can enjoy every day the pleasure of a new itinerary
    to reach the same places. The most fixed and calm lives in Esmeralda are spent
    without any repetition.
    Secret and adventurous lives, here as elsewhere, are subject to greater
    restrictions. Esmeralda’s cats, thieves, illicit lovers move along higher,
    discontinuous ways, dropping from a rooftop to a balcony, following gutterings
    with acrobats’ steps. Below, the rats run in the darkness of the sewers, one
    behind the other’s tail, along with conspirators and smugglers: they peep out of
    manholes and drainpipes, they slip through double bottoms and ditches, from one
    hiding place to another they drag crusts of cheese, contraband goods, kegs of
    gunpowder, crossing the city’s compactness pierced by the spokes of underground
    A map of Esmeralda should include, marked in different coloured inks, all
    these routes, solid and liquid, evident and hidden. It is more difficult to fix on
    the map the routes of the swallows, who cut the air over the roofs, dropping long
    invisible parabolas with their still wings, darting to gulp a mosquito, spiralling
    upwards, grazing a pinnacle, dominating from every point of their airy paths all
    the points of the city.

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