Toi Derricotte – The Great Beauty

Toi Derricotte (April 12, 1941 -)

In the movie, flamingos migrate over Rome and rest
overnight on the terrace of Jep Gambardella, so that,
in the rose light of dawn, he walks out to find his saintly
old guest, Sister Maria, meditating among a flamboyance—
a hundred stand on pink stilt-like legs with roseate plumes
and beaks sturdy as lobster crackers. Some rest on one leg
or sit with legs tucked under them; some halfheartedly peck
at stone—as if they might find bread crumbs from last night’s party.
But all are quiet. “I know all their Christian names,”
she brags under her breath to no one, or perhaps to God.


I never received such tidings from the universe, but Saturday
on my walk, checking my Fitbit again (3,000 for an old lady is good), I heard
wing beats and cooing, and then, almost under my arm, one flew up
nearly brushing my hand—as if intentional—then twenty, thirty coming
from behind, as if they were pouring out of my back. I couldn’t tell how
many would arrive, a hundred resting on the branches of a tree, and some
flying up to a balustrade, sitting in a long row stolid as judges. Why can’t I
take evidence seriously? I (who half believe in God) spoke playfully—
not even remembering I had watched Sister Maria’s flamingos two nights
before—“What are you doing here?,” as if they were old friends or a bunch
of my kids showing up out of nowhere. I watched for a while and when they
just sat there, turning their heads, I went on with my walk—another 1,500
steps to go. By the time I was almost home, I had persuaded myself: it was
only pigeons; perhaps hungry. But then they came back, from all around,
as if they were rising up out of the ground, as if they were being made
right before me, all the sounding wings, air whipping and breaking,
their gray-and-pink presences as if convincing me.

Note: I found the film The Great Beauty about memories and enjoyment of life while aging to be excellent. I highly recommend it.