We enjoyed the architecturally superb walled town of Mdina yesterday. I particularly enjoyed the winding streets. How intimidating to be an invader here, and turn a blind corner, into armed opponents.
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Today, it’s picture perfect, a ghost town. It reminds me of Williamsburg, Virginia, where I lived for 12 years.
John D. Rockefeller financed the reconstruction of Williamsburg, Virginia to its pre-Colonial glories. There are hundreds of costumed interpreters who remain in character—language and accent—as you chat to them. Method acting brought to the streets.
And then, in the evening, the restored historical section is deserted, and you see costumed interpreters in their tricorn hats, and ladies in their long gowns canter in carriages down the street on their way home.
They loom out of the gathering darkness like ghosts, and in that melancholic mood, one thinks, and dreams, and the ghosts of the past appear, smiling or scowling, and one confronts them, and lays them to rest under the eternal beneficent eye of him who paid for our sins past, sins present and sins to come, and whose great word over us all is love.
Here is a poem I wrote during the first year of our marriage, when I was alone in the shortening autumn and winter days while Roy worked late—and I considered having children.
Below my darkening window, the coachman
–in tricorn and breeches–brandishes his whip,
trailed by the round-spectacled maid,
starched from mobcap to apron. I start,
but, of course, it’s the neighbors.
This is Williamsburg, Virginia, restored
where planter, patriot, slave—
in ancient accouterments.
We see them in the grocery stores.
Alone during the day, I consider having children,
though the face of my brother floats before me,
lovely and coffined, as in his only baby picture.
The shrieks of Magda echo, the crazy girl
whose parents were first cousins
as we are. I am afraid
in this haunted city, where ghosts
linger like mists, linger, and will not fade,
and the past’s tangled roots sprout
out of the cobbles, and from our souls.