Creative writing · Photography

the Cathedral of dreams

(this is an essay written about a black and white photograph taken by Negeen Sobhani, of a cathedral in a street of Florence)


Any epoch, any era, any moment in the past five hundred years, that is what recorded memory is for, to remind you of what happened, and what is possible, still, in waking dreams where you let your thoughts wander.

There is a moment when a particular image crosses that tenuous line between your personal memory and an appropriated past. Then you cannot decipher in the recesses of your own tumultous mind if you experienced it, or if you appropriated the memory after countless retellings, and reminescences.

The street in Firenze is sharp, busy but not hectic, and the clock indicates four in the afternoon. A man with his hands in his pockets takes a step away from me, his left heel barely touching the ground and I close my eyes…when I open them again, he has gone, and the sun lays its last rays along the side of the buildings on the left-hand side of the street, missing the bar, carressing the bakery and the butchershop and the shoe cobbler, further down a group of men shrink into the intersection and above all the awnings of the narrow busy street with the skinny four-story builings on either side, towering in the haze, is the Cathedral of dreams.

Looming quietly over a carefully synchronized chaos, she is the calm center, the heart to the artery I’m standing on. Powerful, magestic, gigantic, and yet practically invisible to those who won’t lift their head. The basilica, hazy with dreams, fades into the white sky above and I turn over, blinking, dreaming now of blintzes.

And as quickly as that, the snapshot vanishes. The perfect moment in time in the city I’ve never visited, and the stranger in mid-step whom I will never meet, the wet road and caressing rays of the afternoon sun disappear under a blanket of eastern European pancakes that I’ve never tasted.


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