Pizzicarella by Lissy Jones : Sometimes a song flies through the air, pierces my heart and leaves. I lie wounded, the tune stuck in me like an arrow and I need to find the song again to heal. – Like cures like. I don’t know why a song can hurt me so much, but it is as if it’s tearing open an old scar and things spill out that I didn’t even know existed: memories of places I have never been and people I have never seen in my life.
The song in my body haunts me, evokes a longing for those people and places, and I can only find peace by hunting down this song, capture it, listen to it until I have learnt to sing it, make it my own, make it part of my cell memory.
Pizzicarella was such a song.
The bus I was on slowly rolled out of the little village of Calimera in the South of Italy, when we passed a group of musicians playing in the street. People where dancing and singing. An old woman sang a line of the song and everybody answered her.
“The song, the song!” I called out to the bus driver. “Do you know the song they are singing?” “No,” he said, “I don’t even understand their language. They are speaking some kind of dialect. It is probably one of their old traditional songs.”
Nobody on the bus knew the song or had ever heard it before. Oh why hadn’t I left the bus right then and there and went back to the musicians? Later I have asked myself that question many times, because the song ripped me open and I longed so much to own it that I could have cried.
I did not even know how to ask about the song. I did not know how it was called nor could I repeat a single line, because the language was Griko, as I found out later. All I had was a fragment of the melody and I sang it to everybody in Italy who was willing to listen.
The arrow of the song remained stuck in my heart, making me bleed sometimes when the tune popped up unexpectedly in my head and my lips were trying to form sounds, imitating a language that I didn’t know. I sang the fragment of the tune that I remembered, hoping that through a miracle the song might come to me from somewhere, so that I could sing it, heal something that I didn’t know needed healing.
Other songs came and left their mark. But they also left tracks I could follow: sometimes they showed up in a bar, sometimes on the walkman of a friend, a live recording of a band that didn’t exist anymore. I always could trace them, track them down, integrate them in my body. Just the song from the little south Italian village remained hidden, because I did not know the magic word, the title, that could make it appear.
Almost thirty years later it happened: I watched an old Italian movie in black and white and there was a scene like I had seen that day in Calimera: a wedding with people singing and dancing. And they sang the song. “Pizzicarella” it said in the credits.
“Traditional Italian tarantella.” A trail I could follow. I found the song and the lyrics. And now it is mine.
I see the bus again slowly rolling out of the little village of Calimera.
But I’m not on it anymore. I’m among the dancing people and I have turned into the old woman who sings this song, loud and clear. And the song flies through the air, takes the arrow out of my heart and I am healed and whole.
*Lissy Jones is a freelance writer and translator. Her work has appeared in Wired Ruby, Circa, Clarity of Night, Humorpress, Echo Park TV and the radio show ‘Hear in the City’ on KPFK. She also tells her stories on YouTube.